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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2007. "Do Tax Cuts Starve the Beast: The Effect of Tax Changes on Government Spending," NBER Working Papers 13548, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13548
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Francesco Bianchi & Cosmin Ilut, 2017. "Monetary/Fiscal Policy Mix and Agent's Beliefs," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 26, pages 113-139, October.
    2. Jeffrey Frankel, 2011. "A Lesson from the South for Fiscal Policy in the US and Other Advanced Countries," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Association for Comparative Economic Studies, vol. 53(3), pages 407-430, September.
    3. Saeid Mahdavi & Joakim Westerlund, 2008. "The Tax Spending Nexus: Evidence from a Panel of US State-Local Governments," Working Papers 0045, College of Business, University of Texas at San Antonio.
    4. Javier Andrés & José Emilio Boscá & Javier Ferri, 2011. "Household Leverage and Fiscal Multipliers," Working Papers 1103, International Economics Institute, University of Valencia.
    5. Bouakez, Hafedh & Chihi, Foued & Normandin, Michel, 2014. "Measuring the effects of fiscal policy," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 123-151.
    6. Amihai Glazer, 2008. "Reducing Current Taxes to Raise Future Revenue," Working Papers 080914, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
    7. Halkos, George & Paizanos, Epameinondas, 2015. "Fiscal policy and economic performance: A review of the theoretical and empirical literature," MPRA Paper 67737, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Alexander James, 2015. "US State Fiscal Policy and Natural Resources," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 238-57, August.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General
    • H60 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - General
    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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