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Do Tax Cuts Starve the Beast: The Effect of Tax Changes on Government Spending

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  • Christina D. Romer
  • David H. Romer

Abstract

The hypothesis that decreases in taxes reduce future government spending is often cited as a reason for cutting taxes. However, because taxes change for many reasons, examinations of the relationship between overall measures of taxation and subsequent spending are plagued by problems of reverse causation and omitted variable bias. To deal with these problems, this paper examines the behavior of government expenditures following legislated tax changes that narrative sources suggest are largely uncorrelated with other factors affecting spending. The results provide no support for the hypothesis that tax cuts restrain government spending; indeed, they suggest that tax cuts may actually increase spending. The results also indicate that the main effect of tax cuts on the government budget is to induce subsequent legislated tax increases. Examination of four episodes of major tax cuts reinforces these conclusions.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13548.

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Date of creation: Oct 2007
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Publication status: published as Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2009. "Do Tax Cuts Starve the Beast? The Effect of Tax Changes on Government Spending," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 40(1 (Spring), pages 139-214.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13548

Note: DAE EFG ME PE
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  1. Niskanen, William A., 1978. "Deficits, government spending, and inflation : What is the evidence?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 591-602, August.
  2. Valerie A. Ramey, 2009. "Identifying Government Spending Shocks: It's All in the Timing," NBER Working Papers 15464, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Bohn, H., 1991. "Budget Balance Through Revenue or Spending Adjustments? Some Historical Evidence for the United States," Weiss Center Working Papers 3-91, Wharton School - Weiss Center for International Financial Research.
  4. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2010. "The Macroeconomic Effects of Tax Changes: Estimates Based on a New Measure of Fiscal Shocks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 763-801, June.
  5. Henning Bohn, . "Budget Balance Through Revenue or Spending Adjustments ? Some Historical Evidence for the United States (Reprint 013)," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 03-91, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  6. Gary S. Becker & Casey B. Mulligan, 1998. "Deadweight Costs and the Size of Government," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 144, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  7. Ramey, Valerie A. & Shapiro, Matthew D., 1998. "Costly capital reallocation and the effects of government spending," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 145-194, June.
  8. von Furstenberg, George M & Green, R Jeffrey & Jeong, Jin-Ho, 1986. "Tax and Spend, or Spend and Tax?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 68(2), pages 179-88, May.
  9. Alan J. Auerbach, 2003. "Fiscal Policy, Past and Present," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(1), pages 75-138.
  10. Olivier Blanchard & Roberto Perotti, 1999. "An Empirical Characterization of the Dynamic Effects of Changes in Government Spending and Taxes on Output," NBER Working Papers 7269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Bohn, Henning, 1992. "Endogenous Government Spending and Ricardian Equivalence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 102(412), pages 588-97, May.
  12. Alan J. Auerbach, 2000. "Formation of fiscal policy: the experience of the past twenty-five years," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Apr, pages 9-23.
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Cited by:
  1. Amihai Glazer, 2008. "Reducing Current Taxes to Raise Future Revenue," Working Papers 080914, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  2. Alexander James, 2014. "US State Fiscal Policy and Natural Resources," OxCarre Working Papers 126, Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies, University of Oxford.
  3. Javier Andrés & José Emilio Boscá & Javier Ferri, 2011. "Household Leverage and Fiscal Multipliers," Working Papers 1103, International Economics Institute, University of Valencia.
  4. Serbanoiu, Georgian Valentin, 2012. "Transmission of fiscal policy shocks into Romania's economy," MPRA Paper 40947, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Frankel, Jeffrey A., 2011. "A Lesson from the South for Fiscal Policy in the US and Other Advanced Countries," Scholarly Articles 8705907, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

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