Why economists can’t get elected

People think of economists as people who can’t agree on policies. To some extent they’re right, but here’s a list of policies that get widespread agreement among economists of very different political persuasions (with my comments in italics):

  • Eliminate the mortgage interest tax deduction. No-brainer for economists. The current policy taxes everyone, including renters, to subsidize borrowing by homeowners. Overall, it takes from the poor to give to the rich, and in an inefficient manner.
  • End the tax deduction companies get for providing health-care to employees. This has been distorting our medical care decisions for far too long.
  • Eliminate the corporate income tax. Tax income properly when people receive it, and you can do away with this.
  • Eliminate all income and payroll taxes. All of them. A consumption tax of some kind would be far more efficient, and fairer too, in the bargain.
  • Tax carbon emissions. They have significant and potentially civilization-threatening external costs, and this is a far better way to reduce them than the awkward regulatory schemes tried so far.
  • Legalize marijuana. In a world where alcohol is legal (and we all know how prohibition turned out), marijuana seems to have more benign effects, along with lower costs for the rest of society.

Now do you see why economists can’t get elected? Anyone who ran on this platform would anger the left, the right and the center. One more observation: Note how much of the list results from our current broken tax system. To find out more, look at the list or hear the NPR program that originated the list.