Future tax policies should maximise economic growth

The goal of tax policy should be to maximise economic growth. Tax policies that maximise growth would satisfy the stated goals of policy makers on both the right and the left, says Gerald Scully, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).

Some activities of government contribute to economic growth. Yet when government becomes too large, it slows economic growth. The trick for policy makers, says Scully, is to find the point at which economic resources are allocated most productively between public and private uses. At this level of taxing and spending, the economy will grow at the fastest sustainable rate.

According to the Scully:

  • To maximise economic growth, federal, state and local taxes combined should average about 23 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

  • However, tax revenues as a share of GDP have not been at that level since 1950, and for years have averaged between 30 and 34 per cent.

    Would Americans have had to sacrifice important government programmes to keep the overall tax rate down? Not at all, says Scully. At a lower rate of taxation, higher growth would have produced more government revenue than the amount the government actually collected. For example, between 1950 and 2004:

  • Had the combined tax rate been held to the optimum 23 per cent, the economy would have grown at a clip of 5.8 per cent per year, rather than the 3.5 per cent that actually occurred.

  • As a result, real GDP would have been $37 trillion by 2004, more than three times greater than it was, meaning the average American family would have more than three times as much real income today than it actually has.

  • Government at all levels would have collected $61.9 trillion more in taxes.

    Source: Gerald W. Scully, Taxes and Economic Growth, National Center for Policy Analysis, Policy Report No. 292, November 2006.

    For text: http://www.ncpa.org/pub/st/st292

    For more on Taxes: http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_Category=20

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 28 November 2006
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