4 ways Trump’s tax cuts changed the American economyApril 15, 2019
Some of its effects are already visible, and some of them will take months, or even years, to understand. After all, economists are still publishing studies about the effect of the last comprehensive tax overhaul back in 1986, signed by Ronald Reagan.
Here’s what we can — and can’t — say about how President Donald Trump’s tax cuts have impacted the economy so far.
1. Corporate taxes fell off a cliff, fueling deeper deficits
One of the central features of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was a drop in the corporate income tax rate, from 35% to 21%.
Even though plenty of companies never paid that full rate because of various exemptions, the decrease still took a big bite out of corporate tax collections. They plunged from a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of $264 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017 to $149 billion the next, when the new rules went into effect, and they haven’t bounced back.
Corporate income taxes make up only a small slice of the federal government’s overall tax revenue, and have declined as a share of the economy from their post-World War II height in 1951. However, corporate tax revenue still tends to increase when the economy is doing well. This is the first time corporate taxes have taken such a hit when the economy is not in recession.
“In some ways, our economy is held back by the public investments that we are not making,” said Steve Wamhoff, director of federal tax policy for the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. “Even if we think that spending on infrastructure would be a good thing, politically we can’t do this spending because we have to address this deficit.”
2. A short-term economic boost is fading
Part of that came from an increase in business investment in research and development, new factories and equipment, possibly encouraged by a provision that allowed businesses to immediately expense capital expenditures, rather than expense them gradually over several years. Business…