Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Must-Read : Martin Wolf writes a better version of my appeals than I have managed to: Martin Wolf : Inequality is a thr... [feedly]

Must-Read : Martin Wolf writes a better version of my appeals than I have managed to: Martin Wolf : Inequality is a thr...

 -- via my feedly newsfeed

Must-Read: Martin Wolf writes a better version of my appeals than I have managed to: Martin WolfInequality is a threat to our democracies: "Between 1980 and 2016, the top 1 per cent captured 28 per cent of the aggregate increase in real incomes in the US, Canada and western Europe, while the bottom 50 per cent captured just 9 per cent of it...

...But these aggregates conceal huge differences: in western Europe, the top 1 per cent captured "only" as much as the bottom 51 per cent. In North America, however, the top 1 per cent captured as much as the bottom 88 per cent....

After agriculture (and the agrarian state) was invented, elites were amazingly successful in extracting all the surplus the economy created. The limit on predation was set by the need to let the producers survive. Remarkably, many desperately poor agrarian societies approached this limit....

In the 20th century... when revolutionary regimes softened (or collapsed) or the exigencies of war faded from memory, quite similar processes to those of the old agrarian states took hold. Vastly wealthy new elites emerged, gained political power, and again used it for their own ends. Those who doubt this should look closely at the politics and economics of the tax bill now going through the US Congress. The implication of this parallel would be that, barring some catastrophic event, we are now on the way back to ever-rising inequality....

The big question,,, is whether the pressures for inequality will go on rising and the willingness to offset them generally decline. On the former, it is quite hard to be optimistic. The market value of the work of relatively unskilled people in high-income countries seems very unlikely to rise. On the latter, one can point, optimistically, to a desire to enjoy some degree of social harmony and the material abundance of modern economies, as reasons to believe the wealthy might be prepared to share their abundance.... [But] elites may become more determined to seize whatever they can for themselves. If so, that would augur badly, not just for social peace, but even for the survival of the stable universal-suffrage democracies that emerged in today's high-income countries in the 19th and 20th centuries... "plutocratic populism"....

Mr Scheidel suggests that inequality is sure to rise. We must prove him wrong. If we fail to do so, soaring inequality might slay democracy, too, in the end.

A primal scream on taxes. And why the plan will likely send more, not less, jobs/investment abroad [feedly]

A primal scream on taxes. And why the plan will likely send more, not less, jobs/investment abroad

 -- via my feedly newsfeed

First, I give a primal scream over at WaPo re the tax plan that may well be law by the time you read this.

Next, there's been a lot of writing, including my own, on the question of whether the plan further incentivizes or discourages offshoring of investment and jobs. I've thought so, for a number of reasons, and I'm increasingly convinced that's the case.

However, the writing on this is often quite technical and dense. So I was glad to see this WaPo piece break it down quite simply. Here are some of the main factors that I expect to juice the incentive of to offshore production, with my bold added.

First, a corporation would pay that global minimum tax only on profit above a "routine" rate of return on the tangible assets — such as factories — it has overseas. So the more equipment a corporation has in other countries, the more tax-free income it can earn. The legislation thus offers corporations "a perverse incentive" to shift assembly lines abroad, said Steve Rosenthal of the Tax Policy Center.

Second, the bill sets the "routine" return at 10 percent — far more generous than would typically be the case. Such allowances are normally fixed a couple of percentage points above risk-free Treasury yields, which are currently around 2.4 percent.

As a result, a U.S. corporation that builds a $100 million plant in another country and makes a foreign profit of $20 million would pay roughly $1 million in tax versus $4 million on the same profit if earned in the United States, said Rosenthal, who has been a tax lawyer for 25 years and drafted tax legislation as a staffer for the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Finally, the minimum levy would be calculated on a global average rather than for individual countries where a corporation operates. So a U.S. multinational could lower its tax bill by shifting profit from U.S. locations to tax havens such as the Cayman Islands.

Simply put, the more factories you build abroad, the more you can cut your tax bill. They set the non-taxable foreign profits high enough that even with the lower rate at home, there's still a big incentive to produce abroad. And as long as you book some of your profits in non-tax-haven countries, you can send the rest of them to bask on the beach in the Caymen's.

For a deeper dive, see Gene Sperling, Brad Setser, Kim Clausing.

Why is the other side–the folks who claim the plan will increase onshoring/bringing foreign earnings back home–wrong?

First, some profit repatriation is sure to occur, though there's no reason to expect it to flow into investment and jobs here as opposed to share buybacks and dividend payouts. That's the track record, and its likelihood is significantly boosted in this repatriation round as firms are already sitting on more than enough capital to invest and expand if that's what they wanted to do.

But the main analytic mistake I hear folks making is the use of the wrong delta. That is, they're looking at the change in the statutory corporate rate–35-21 percent, a big 14 point drop–and keying their predicted response off that. But the true delta, especially for multinationals, many of whom are already paying effective rates well below 21%, is a lot smaller than that. And, as Setser and others stress, the fact that they can still play all the transfer pricing games they've long perfected–booking income in low-tax havens; booking deductible costs in higher tax places–along with the three points above from the WaPo piece, suggest more, not less, offshoring.

Trust me, I and others will be keeping a very close eye on this.

Paul Krugman: Republicans Despise the Working Class [feedly]

Paul Krugman: Republicans Despise the Working Class

"Their disdain for ordinary working Americans as opposed to investors, heirs, and business owners runs so deep that they can't contain it":

Republicans Despise the Working Class, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: You can always count on Republicans to do two things: try to cut taxes for the rich and try to weaken the safety net for the poor and the middle class. ...
But ... something has been added to the mix. ...Republicans ... don't treat all Americans with a given income the same. Instead, their bill ... hugely privileges owners, whether of businesses or of financial assets, over those who simply work for a living. ...
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has evaluated the Senate bill, which the final bill is expected to resemble. It finds that the bill would reduce taxes on business owners, on average, about three times as much as it would reduce taxes on those whose primary source of income is wages or salaries. For highly paid workers, the gap would be even wider, as much as 10 to one. ...
If this sounds like bad policy, that's because it is. More than that, it opens the doors to an orgy of tax avoidance. ... We're pitting hastily devised legislation, drafted without hearings over the course of just a few days, against the cleverest lawyers and accountants money can buy. Which side do you think will win?
As a result, it's a good guess that the bill will increase the budget deficit far more than currently projected. ...
So why are they doing this? After all, the tax bill appears to be terrible politics as well as terrible policy. ... The ... public overwhelmingly disapproves of the current Republican plan.
But Republicans don't seem able to help themselves: Their disdain for ordinary working Americans as opposed to investors, heirs, and business owners runs so deep that they can't contain it.
When I realized the extent to which G.O.P. tax plans were going to favor business owners over ordinary workers, I found myself remembering what happened in 2012, when Eric Cantor — then the House majority leader — tried to celebrate Labor Day. He put out a tweet for the occasion that somehow failed to mention workers at all, instead praising those who have "built a business and earned their own success." ...
Cantor, a creature of the G.O.P. establishment if ever there was one, had so little respect for working Americans that he forgot to include them in a Labor Day message.
And now that disdain has been translated into legislation, in the form of a bill that treats anyone who works for someone else — that is, the vast majority of Americans — as a second-class citizen.

 -- via my feedly newsfeed

By overturning Specialty Healthcare, the NLRB has made it harder for workers to organize [feedly]

By overturning Specialty Healthcare, the NLRB has made it harder for workers to organize

On Friday, the Trump administration's appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) once again made it more difficult for workers to join together and form a union, by overturning the Board's standard for determining an appropriate bargaining unit, as established in 2011's Specialty Healthcare case.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, private-sector workers who wish to be represented by a union can petition the NRLB to hold a union election. Federal labor law gives the Board wide discretion to determine the appropriate "bargaining unit," the term for the group of workers that will vote in the election and will be represented by the union. In Specialty Healthcare, the Board established that once an appropriate unit of employees is identified based on the employees' "community of interest," an employer can only petition to add more employees to the unit if the employer can show the additional employees share an "overwhelming community of interest" with the workers who are already in the bargaining unit. This standard is important to prevent employers from attempting to manipulate or gerrymander the bargaining units in order to thwart their employees' union elections. The NLRB's standard for determining an appropriate bargaining unit in Specialty Healthcare has been unanimously upheld in all seven U.S. Courts of Appeals in which it has been challenged.

Since the NLRB issued its decision in Specialty Healthcare corporate special interests have assailed it as inviting the proliferation of "micro" units that will allow unions to form small pockets of unionized employees among an employer's workforces. However, data on the median size of bargaining units disproves the argument that the standard would lead to the proliferation of so-called "micro-units"—the median size of bargaining units has hardly changed since the Board issued its Specialty Healthcare decision in 2011.

Why then were the Chamber of Commerce and other corporate interest groups committed to doing away with the Specialty Healthcare standard? They simply want to make it easier for employers defeat an organizing campaign, by manipulating who is in a bargaining unit. By overturning this rule, the Trump administration has once again shown that it wants to make it harder for workers to organize and join unions.

 -- via my feedly newsfeed

NLRB reverses Browning-Ferris, makes it harder for workers to bargain with their employers [feedly]

NLRB reverses Browning-Ferris, makes it harder for workers to bargain with their employers

Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) made it more difficult for millions of workers to join together and form a union, by overturning its joint-employer standardestablished in 2015's Browning-Ferris Industries case.

It is hard in today's economy to bargain for higher wages or better working conditions, especially if your direct employer doesn't really make those decisions. Under President Obama, the NLRB tried to make it easier for employees by holding each employer responsible when they co-determine what a worker's wages, hours, and working conditions will be. In yesterday's decision, the Trump NLRB decided to make it harder than ever.

The NLRB's latest decision is bad law resulting from a bad process. Ordinarily, before overturning major precedent, the Board invites the public to comment by filing amicus briefs. However, this time, they did not, and instead announced this reversal with no warning or notice. President Trump's appointees to the Board were so keen to respond to the demands of the franchising industry, which wants a rule that franchisors like McDonald's aren't responsible unless they exercise direct control over a franchisee's labor relations, that they reversed the joint-employer standard in a case where the standard wasn't even an issue, and where the public had no opportunity to weigh in.

What is the joint employer standard? When two or more businesses co-determine or share control over a worker's terms of employment (such as pay, schedules, and job duties), then both businesses may be considered to be employers of that worker, or "joint employers." Consider a common employment arrangement in which a staffing agency hires a worker and assigns her to work at another firm. The staffing agency determines some of the worker's terms of employment (such as her hiring and wages), but the other firm directs her daily tasks and sets her schedule and hours. Because both entities co-determine and share control over the terms and conditions of her employment, both businesses may be found to be joint employers. As joint employers, both companies are responsible for bargaining with the employees under the NLRA.

By weakening its joint-employer standard, the NLRB has made it nearly impossible for working people caught in contracted-out, staffing, or other alternative working arrangements to join together and negotiate for better pay and working conditions. If these workers wanted to negotiate over their work schedules, safety precautions on the job, or pay rates, the staffing agency could simply shrug their shoulders, telling the workers that it is the larger firm that owns and operates the business that determines all of those rules. But if the workers tried to negotiate with the larger firm (where they actually give their labor every day) the larger firm could avoid the bargaining table as well, by claiming that the staffing agency is the workers' only employer.

Even though both the staffing agency and the larger firm jointly determine the workers' conditions of employment, without a strong joint-employer standard, the workers could find themselves stuck in the middle, without any employer to bargain with or address their concerns at work.

Moreover, the only liability employers face under the NLRA is the requirement that they respect their workers' rights to organize, join a union, and negotiate over pay and working conditions. The act does not provide for monetary penalties against an employer. At most, the NLRB can order an employer to bargain with workers, to reinstate an employee fired in violation of the act, to pay back wages to a wrongfully fired employee (reduced by the employee's interim earnings), or to cease and desist from engaging in conduct that violates the act. All this weakened joint-employer standard does is keep the smaller employer on the hook for these labor law violations, and allow the larger company, including franchisors, to escape liability and avoid having to negotiate with workers' unions.

Congress has also tried to further weaken joint-employer standards by introducing the so-called "Save Local Business Act," which would roll back the joint employer standard under both the NLRA and the Fair Labor Standards Act. But this law would do nothing to protect small businesses. Instead, the bill would ensure that small businesses are left with sole responsibility for business practices often mandated by large corporations like franchisors. It would establish a weak joint employer standard that lets big corporations avoid liability for labor and employment violations and leaves small businesses on the hook.

Weakening the joint employer standard hurts working people. By weakening the joint-employer standard, the Trump appointees to the NLRB have given in to the corporate lobbyists seeking to keep the cost of labor low by eroding workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively—letting employers avoid the bargaining table by contracting for services rather than hiring employees directly. Firms will be able to retain influence over the terms and conditions of employment while evading the obligation to bargain with employees under the NLRA.

Since contingent and alternative workforce arrangements (reliance on temporary staffing firms, contractors, and subcontractors to outsource services traditionally performed by in-house workers) have grown dramatically, this change in the law will undercut the ability for millions of workers to form and join unions. The most rigorous recent estimates find that the share of workers engaged in alternative work arrangements was 15.8 percent in late 2015. In today's labor market, that translates into roughly 24 million workers.

The majority of American workers would vote for union representation if they could. However, the intensity with which employers have opposed organizing efforts, and the continuing tilt of the legal and policy playing field against workers seeking to bargain collectively, has led to a decline in union membership. Yesterday's decision makes it clear the Trump board will work to further rig the system against working people.

 -- via my feedly newsfeed

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Tim Taylor: Ricardo's Comparative Advantage After Two Centuries

Ricardo's Comparative Advantage After Two Centuries

Two centuries ago in 1817, the great economist David Ricardo published his most prominent work: "On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation."Among many other insights, it's the book that introduced the idea of "comparative advantage" (especially in Chapter 7) and thus offered a way of thinking about the potential for gains from trade--both between countries and within areas of a single country--that has been central to economic thinking on these topics ever since. In Cloth for Wine? The Relevance of Ricardo's Comparative Advantage in the 21st Century, Simon Evenett has edited a collection of 15 short essays thinking through how and when comparative advantage applies to modern economies. The book is published by the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) Press, in association with the UK government Department for International Trade.

Most people have no difficulty with the idea that two countries can at least potentially benefit from trade if each one has a productivity advantage in a certain good. There are places in the Middle East where finding oil doesn't seem to involve a lot more than jamming a sharp stick into the ground. Those places should produce and export oil. The United States has vast areas of fertile soil. Those places should produce and export corn and wheat.

But an immediate issue arises. What about areas that don't seem to have a productivity advantage in any area? How can they possibly benefit from trade? Ricardo's theory establishes the point that the key factor in what areas or nations will choose to export or import is not whether there is an overall productivity advantage, but instead where that productivity advantage is greatest--or where the productivity disadvantage is smallest. It is the "comparative" advantage that matters.

In my own Principles of Economics textbook (which of course I recommend for quality and value), I offer a homely example to build some intuition for this idea, involving whether it is useful for a group of campers to specialize in certain tasks. I wrote:
"[C]onsider the situation of a group of friends who decide to go camping together. The friends have a wide range of skills and experiences, but one person in particular, Jethro, has done lots of camping before and is a great athlete, too. Jethro has an absolute advantage in all aspects of camping: carrying more weight in a backpack, gathering firewood, paddling a canoe, setting up tents, making a meal, and washing up. So here's the question: Because Jethro has an absolute productivity advantage in everything, should he do all the work?
"Of course not. Even if Jethro is willing to work like a mule while everyone else sits around, he still has only 24 hours in a day. If everyone sits around and waits for Jethro to do everything, not only will Jethro be an unhappy camper, but there won't be much output for his group of six friends to consume. The theory of comparative advantage suggests that everyone will benefit if they figure out their areas of comparative advantage; that is, the area of camping where their productivity disadvantage is least, compared to Jethro. For example, perhaps Jethro is 80% faster at building fires and cooking meals than anyone else, but only 20% faster at gathering firewood and 10% faster at setting up tents. In that case, Jethro should focus on building fires and making meals, and others should attend to the other tasks, each according to where their productivity disadvantage is smallest. If the campers coordinate their efforts according to comparative advantage, they can all gain."
This way of phrasing the situation clarifies the essential economic issue: not who is most productive at various tasks, but how to allocate all of the available productive power across a range of tasks in the most efficient way. In that problem, everyone has a role to play. Even a party with productivity advantages in every area will have areas where their advantage is smallest; conversely, a party who is least productive at every single task will have an area in which the productivity disadvantage is least. Focusing on those areas will provide gains from trade.

Of course, the camping example is just conceptual way of framing how division or labor and trade among friends can potentially provide gains. It leaves out many real world complications, which are the focus of many of the essays in this book. How large are the gains from trade? How will the gains be distributed across the parties involved in the trade? Does trade provide additional gains over time through heightened competition and incentives for innovation? How will trade affect the distribution of income? What are the underlying reasons why countries differ in their profiles of productivity across activities, and to what extent can those reasons be altered by public policy? What happens when comparative productivity levels shift, so some industries no longer need the same number of workers?  Do the potential gains from trade in goods also apply to gains in services? Do the potential gains apply to a global economy with "value chains" of production that cross and re-cross national borders? How do economies of scale fit into the picture? What about trade in similar-but-not-identical branded products, like cars? What is the appropriate reaction when countries erect barriers to trade or when there are persistent patterns of trade surpluses and deficits?

Ricardo actually had thoughts and analysis about a surprisingly large number of these questions, and the essays in this book take up most of the rest of them. Here, I just want to note a few points that seemed worth particular emphasis.

One is that although Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage never disappeared, and has been a mainstay of basic principles of economics for 200 years, there was a period of some decades when it seemed less relevant to the facts of international trade. As Jonathan Eaton explores in his contribution to this volume, Ricardo's basic example of comparative advantage involved one factor of production (labor) and different technology across countries linked to differences in productivity of labor. By the middle of the 20th century, the focus was on models that had a number of different factors of production, and thus chose different methods of production, although they shared access to the same technology. By the 1980s, emphasis had shifted to models of how large firms would trade similar but not identical goods across countries: for example, international trade in cars or airplanes or machine tools.

But perhaps surprisingly, as economists looked at data on international trade with many different products, and explored models where countries differed in technology and productivity, they were led back to a Ricardian framework. Eaton and his frequent coauthor Samuel Kortum were leaders in this modelling. In an essay discussing this approach in the Spring 2012 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, they wrote in the abstract:
"David Ricardo (1817) provided a mathematical example showing that countries could gain from trade by exploiting innate differences in their ability to make different goods. In the basic Ricardian example, two countries do better by specializing in different goods and exchanging them for each other, even when one country is better at making both. This example typically gets presented in the first or second chapter of a text on international trade, and sometimes appears even in a principles text. But having served its pedagogical purpose, the model is rarely heard from again. The Ricardian model became something like a family heirloom, brought down from the attic to show a new generation of students, and then put back. Nearly two centuries later, however, the Ricardian framework has experienced a revival. Much work in international trade during the last decade has returned to the assumption that countries gain from trade because they have access to different technologies. These technologies may be generally available to producers in a country, as in the Ricardian model of trade, our topic here, or exclusive to individual firms. This line of thought has brought Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage back to center stage."
In short, when it comes to the modern analysis of international trade, Ricardo is back! Of course, this isn't the only approach or only set of questions. Indeed, one of the problems in thinking about the effects of international trade is that the patterns of international trade are deeply interwoven with other political, historical and social variables, so extrapolations are hard. For example, it would probably be unwise to believe that if the nations of Africa or Latin America or Asia sought to form a "Union," it would work out in the same ways (for better or worse) as the European Union. The laws about international trade are not the only relevant differences across regions.

Indeed, there is a long-standing argument in economics over whether trade leads to economic growth, or whether economic growth leads to more trade,or whether other external factors (like improved technology and transportation) affect both.

One other essay in this volume that especially caught my eye is by Ernesto Zedillo, and his title reveals his theme "Don't blame Ricardo – take responsibility for domestic political choices." He writes:
"In the case of politicians opposed to international trade, the arguments put forward vary a lot, from the subtle to the grotesque, but all have in common the deflection of responsibility for domestic policy failures to external forces as the cause of those failures. The most extreme case of such deflection is to be found in the rhetoric of populist politicians, from both the left and the right. More than any other kind, the populist politicians have a marked tendency to blame others for their countries' problems and failings. Foreigners who invest in, export or migrate to their country are the populist's favourite targets to explain almost every domestic problem. That is why restrictions – including draconian ones – on trade, investment and migration are an essential part of the populist's policy arsenal. Populists praise isolationism and avoid international engagement, except with their foreign populist cronies. The 'full package' of populism frequently includes anti-market economics, xenophobic and autarkic nationalism, and authoritarian politics. Populists display their protectionism and xenophobia as proof of their 'authentic patriotism' and excel at manipulating the public's nationalistic sentiments to execute their retrograde economic and political agenda, which invariably includes a strong rejection of open markets.
"Unfortunately, asserting a causal relationship between globalisation and domestic ills is the rule rather than the exception even in countries governed by moderate democratic leaders, left or right. It is a rare event that a government confronting serious domestic problems would look first into its own policy failings rather than external causes in dealing with their citizens' demands for effective solutions. Blaming imports, foreign capital volatility and migrants would seem always preferable to explain phenomena such as slow GDP growth, external disequilibria, stagnant wages, and high unemployment. Taking responsibility for domestic policies – or the lack of thereof – that may be at the root of such problems, even if the latter is flagrantly the case, would seldom happen without first trying to point to external factors as the culprits for the unwanted conditions." 
To put this point in a US context, think of issues like the extraordinarily high costs of the US health care system,  the disappointing performance of K-12 education, the low levels of investment in infrastructure, stagnant spending on research and development as a share of GDP, the looming problem of rising spending on government entitlement programs, problems with the individual and corporate tax code, concerns about the competitiveness of certain sectors of the economy, the appropriate level financial regulation, and the challenges of adapting to changes in robotics, artificial intelligence, and other technological changes. These issues (and others that could be added) make a tall pile of problems; in contract, the contribution of international trade to the US economic issues is pretty small. But it's always a lot easier to criticize the neighbors than to clean up the mess in your own front yard.

One of the stories that economists tell each other about the idea of comparative advantage (mentioned in a couple of these essays is from 1969 Presidential Address by Paul Samuelson, The Way of an Economist," published in International Economic Relations: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the International Economic Association Held at Montreal (and available via the magic of Google Books, quotation is from p. 9):
"[O]ur subject puts its best foot forward when it speaks out on international trade. This was brought home to me years ago when I was at the Society of Fellows at Harvard along with the mathemetician Stanley Ulam. Ulam, who was to become the originator of the Monte Carlo method and a co-discoverer of the hydrogen bomb, was already at a tender age a world-famous topologist. And he was a delightful conversationalist, wandering lazily over all domains of knowledge. He used to tease me by saying, `Name me one proposition in the social sciences which is both true and non-trivial.' This was a test that I always failed. But now, some thirty years later, on the staircase so to speak,  an appropriate answer occurs to me: The Ricardian theory of comparative advantage; the demonstration that trade is mutually profitable even when one country is absolutely more -- or less -- productive in terms of every commodity. That it is logically true need not be argued before a mathematician; that it is not trivial is attested by the thousands of important and intelligent men who have never been able to grasp the doctrine for themselves or to believe it after it was explained to them." 
It is of course a little disheartening to me that Paul Samuelson, one of the greatest economists of the 20th century, had difficulty coming up with an economic idea that was both true and nontrivial! But it does make a better story that way. I sometimes say to students that understanding the idea of comparative advantage--both its strengths and its limitations--is one of the dividing lines separating those who actually know some economics from those who don't.

John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV

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The arguments supporting corporate tax cuts are wrong, and territorial taxation will make things worse [feedly]

The arguments supporting corporate tax cuts are wrong, and territorial taxation will make things worse

Congressional Republicans are set to release the final version of their tax bill this evening. Pending more details, the final bill coming out of the conference committee looks increasingly like the Senate version of the bill, which makes Republican tax priorities clear. Most of the individual provisions in the bill are temporary, and the exceptions to this actually raise taxes on households—by tying tax brackets to a new, lower inflation rate and reducing the number of people receiving help buying health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The end result for the Senate bill was that on average, households making under $75,000 would see a tax increase by 2027 according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

On the other hand, the changes for corporations, such as lowering the corporate tax rate and shifting to a "territorial" tax system, are permanent. Since changes benefiting corporations are the only policies deemed worth keeping by Republicans (besides those that raise taxes on most families), it bears repeating that these cuts will not trickle down to typical workers, and arguments to the contrary are not credible.

The typical first argument peddled is that U.S. corporations are taxed at disproportionately high rates and this hurts U.S. workers through some vague notion of "competitiveness." As we've detailed, "competitiveness" is a meaningless term and the evidence doesn't supportthe idea that cutting corporate tax rates will help typical American workers. There is no international evidence that corporate tax cuts boost investment (which could potentially lead to higher wages), nor is there any evidence on the state-level that corporate tax cuts boost wages.

But further, it just isn't true that U.S. corporations are paying disproportionately high taxes compared to our international peers. Sure, the statutory federal rate of 35 percent is high—but that's not the rate corporations are actually paying. Instead, through various loopholes—mostly the deferral loophole—they pay somewhere between 13 and 21 percent, which isn't out of line with our international peers.

(Sometimes proponents of tax cuts for large multinationals will point to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study as "proof" that our effective rate is also high. But that's not what the CBO study actually shows. Instead, the CBO study bolsters conventional wisdom—large multinational corporations are using accounting gimmicks to avoid paying their U.S. taxes.)

Putting an exact number on the effective rate, and comparing that number to international peers, is difficult due to data limitations. But given that the statutory rate is indeed high, a quick comparison of corporate revenues to peer countries tells us that something must be amiss in the U.S. corporate tax code. The United States raises 2.2 percent of GDP in corporate tax revenues, while other OECD countries with lower statutory rates raise an average of 2.9 percent of GDP in corporate tax revenues. Since U.S. capital shares are in linewith peer countries, it's unlikely that we raise less in corporate taxes as a share of the economy because of a low capital share of income. All that is left is that the United States raises a paltry amount in corporate tax revenues as a share of the economy because corporations pay nowhere near the statutory rate.

Finally, besides cutting the statutory corporate rate, the final Republican tax plan would move the United States to a "territorial" system of corporate income taxes. Territorial taxation is economic jargon that means U.S. corporations would no longer be taxed on their offshore income. This provides a clear incentive for these corporations to move either real plants and jobs offshore, or to at least move profits offshore through creative accounting.

U.S. multinationals are already avoiding $752 billion in taxes on the $2.6 trillion in profits they've booked offshore. They do this through the deferral loophole, which allows them to defer paying taxes on the income they've booked offshore until it is repatriated to U.S.-based owners. These corporations are clearly keeping the money offshore in the hopes that Congress will allow them to keep it forever tax-free (or at least taxed more lightly than today's rates). It's not a speculative hope—Congress did exactly this in 2004 by giving a tax "holiday" on profits repatriated in that year. And the current Senate tax bill provides an enormous $562 billion windfall for these tax dodging U.S. multinationals. A move to a territorial system would simply make the deferral loophole permanent, meaning that U.S. corporations wouldn't ever have to pay meaningful taxes on the income they've booked offshore (the proposal does have a small "minimum" tax on foreign-earned profits). The most likely result of the shift toward territorial taxation is exacerbating U.S. multinational tax avoidance. Why pay U.S. taxes when a competent tax lawyer can ensure your income shows up in tax havens?

There are rules that could stop the most obvious ways tax lawyers will seek to use territorial to erode the corporation income tax base, but none are included in the final Republican bill. It is unlikely that rules designed to mitigate erosion of the corporate tax base will be strong enough to outsmart highly-paid corporate lawyers determined to allow their firm to dodge its taxes. But even if the rules were made strong enough, that doesn't make territorial taxation better. Instead, it just means that territorial taxation would lead to offshoring. U.S. multinational corporations would be incentivized to shift investment into low tax rate jurisdictions.

All told, the tax bill is nothing more than a giveaway to large corporations. Arguments that it will grow the economy or help working people are not supported by the evidence.

 -- via my feedly newsfeed