Tax policy has been a divisive theme throughout the presidential campaign. At the core of the debate are divergent philosophies about what the economy needs — and how to get it.
In this Oxford-style debate from Intelligence Squared U.S., a panel of experts dissects the motion "The Rich Are Taxed Enough." The term "enough," in this case, is determined by three factors: fairness, sufficiency and efficiency.
Fairness is a matter of perspective. The wealthy 1 percent may feel that they pay too large a portion of federal taxes compared with the overall population. A secretary whose tax rate is higher than her billionaire boss's might think differently.
The issue of sufficiency relates to government revenue. While those against the motion might argue for more taxes to increase revenue, those in favor of the motion would argue spending — not a lack of tax revenue — is the problem.
Finally, efficiency: Does the tax policy promote economic growth? Under consideration are tax incentives for the rich, who could potentially invest and create jobs for others, and keeping money with middle-class families, who might stimulate the economy more directly.
Before the debate, an audience vote showed 28 percent were in favor of the motion and 49 percent were against. The 23 percent undecided shrank to 7 percent after the debate. In a follow-up vote, 30 percent were in favor, but with 63 percent of the audience opposed, those arguing against the motion "The Rich Are Taxed Enough" won.
This edition of Intelligence Squared U.S. was done in partnership with Columbia Law School's Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law and Public Policy.
Meet the panelists:
FOR THE MOTION
Glenn Hubbard is dean of Columbia Business School and the Russell L. Carson professor of finance and economics. Hubbard is the author of two leading textbooks on money and financial markets and principles of economics, as well as co-author of The Aid Trap: Hard Truths About Ending Poverty (2009), and Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Five Steps to a Better Health Care System (2006). He previously served as deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of the Treasury from 1991 to 1993, and chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers from 2001 to 2003. He is an adviser to Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign.
Arthur Laffer is the founder and chairman of Laffer Associates, an economic research and consulting firm; and Laffer Investments, an investment management firm. In the 1980s, he earned the distinction as "The Father of Supply-Side Economics." Laffer was a member of President Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board from 1981 to 1989 and served as chief economist in the Office of Management and Budget from 1970 to 1972.
AGAINST THE MOTION
Robert Reich is chancellor's professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Reich was secretary of labor in the Clinton administration from 1993-1997. He has written 13 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock (2011) and The Work of Nations (1992). His latest is an e-book, Beyond Outrage (2012). He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. He writes his own blog about the political economy at robertreich.org.
Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, directs the company's research and consulting activities. Zandi's recent research has studied the determinants of mortgage foreclosure and personal bankruptcy, analyzed the economic impact of various tax and government spending policies, and assessed the appropriate policy response to bubbles in asset markets. Frequently testifying before Congress, Zandi is an adviser to policymakers on topics including the economic outlook, the merits of fiscal stimulus, financial regulatory reform and foreclosure mitigation.