The Government You Paid For

Number 20

For decades we’ve been looking for an economic visionary who could lead us out of the doldrums. We’re still looking.

Economists on the TAX CUTS and JOBS ACT: “The enactment of a comprehensive overhaul – complete with a lower corporate tax rate – will IGNITE our ECONOMY with levels of GROWTH not SEEN IN GENERATIONS…”

Yes, that was President Trump earlier this month. His visionary tax reform program has now become an accomplished fact, but even back then it had the weight of rock-solid economics. Don’t believe me? Check the above assurance from the President of the United States.

Actually, I did. A bit of skeptical analysis is in order.

“Economists on the TAX CUTS and JOBS ACT” Economists. Yes. Economist. The tweet posted above includes a video that features the accolades from 137—count them, 137—economists. Here’s what they have to say:


The enactment of a comprehensive overhaul—complete with a lower corporate tax rate—will ignite our economy with levels of growth not seen in generations. A twenty percent statutory rate on a permanent basis would, per the Council of Economic Advisors, help produce a GDP boost “by between 3 and 5 percent.”

Call me a bleeding-heart liberal if you want, but that sounds impressive, the operative word being “sounds.” I picked up details from an item in Forbes that came out the day after the President’s astounding tweet, and I get this. While I was not able to peel off the names of the magnificent 137, Forbes contributor John T. Harvey did exhibit a few for examination. I followed his lead.

Gil Sylvia is supposedly at the University of Georgia. Rather than track him down, myself, I let some others do the leg work. This from The Intercept:

One of the signatories, Gil Sylvia of the University of Georgia, does not have a biography page or any online trace of employment at the university. A university representative told The Intercept that no one with the name Gil Sylvia is employed there. There is a Gil Sylvia working as a marine resource economist at Oregon State University. He did not respond to a request for comment. (If you are the Gil Sylvia who signed this letter and exist, email me.)

Seth Bied is another of the fabulous 137. Forbes made this finding:

Another signatory to the RATE letter, Seth Bied, is not an economist. He is a low-level office assistant at the New York State Tax Department, whose spokesperson said Bied does not remember signing the economists’ letter.


James C. Miller III, according to the Forbe’s posting, “… is an official with Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers-run advocacy organization hell-bent on passing tax cut legislation.” That somebody, eager to sign off on President Trumps new tax scheme, is one of those people whose quest in life seems to align with the wording of the new tax bill. Miller actually is an economist, and we can expect his Nobel Prize to be announced next October.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin is another actual economist listed. From Wikipedia:

In early 2010, Holtz-Eakin became president of American Action Forum, a conservative think tank focused on fiscal and public policy issues. Since joining American Action Forum, Holtz-Eakin has appeared on Fox News to argue against a 2010 health care bill, as well as writing a similarly worded Op-Ed for the New York Times. Holtz-Eakin has been active in supporting Senate immigration bill S.744, which would increase annual legal immigration numbers, legalize illegal immigrants in the United States and some who have already been deported, and promises future enforcement efforts to deter future illegal immigration.

John P. Eleazarian is an economist? Others have a different opinion:

John P. Eleazarian is listed as an economist with the American Economic Association. But membership to the AEA is open to anybody who coughs up dues, and membership simply grants access to AEA journals and discounts at AEA events. Eleazarian is a former attorney who lost his law license and the ability to practice law in California after he was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison for forging a judicial signature and falsifying other documents. His current LinkedIn profile lists him as a paralegal at a law firm.

That item I pulled from The Intercept has more to say:

The RATE Coalition letter lists 13 economists as having emeritus status. But a closer look shows that many other individuals listed as currently employed are also retired. Professor Ashley Lyman is listed as a signatory who works at the University of Idaho, but his biography page shows that he is actually retired. The same goes for Richard Kilmer of the University of Florida, Jerold Zimmerman of the University of Rochester, Stephen Happel of Arizona State University, and William R. Allen of the University of California, Los Angeles. All are listed as current academics while they are, in fact, in retirement.

Other signatories are far from independent voices. One is an in-house economist at a financial services firm based in Illinois. Another is an in-house economist with Bank of America.

I recommend you read the linked item.

It turned out not to be necessary for me to eyeball the list from the video. The sponsor of the letter, the RATE Coalition, has posted all the names on-line:

James C. Miller III
Former OMB Director, 1985-88

Douglas Holtz-Eakin
American Action Forum

Alexander Katkov
Johnson & Wales University

Ali M. Reza
San Jose State U (Emeritus)

Ann E. Sherman
DePaul University

Anthony B. Sanders
George Mason University

Anthony Negbenebor
Gardner-Webb University

Arthur Havenner
University of California, Davis

Austin J. Jaffe
Penn State University

Barry J. Seldon
UT Dallas (retired)

Barry W. Poulson
University of Colorado

Boyd D. Collier
Tarleton State University, Texas A&M University System (Emeritus)

Brian Stuart Wesbury
Joint Economic Committee

Carlisle E. Moody
College of William and Mary

Charles W. Calomiris
Columbia University

Christine P. Ries
Georgia Institute of Technology

Christopher C. Barnekov
FCC (Retired)

Christopher Lingle
Universidad Francisco Marroquin

Clifford F. Thies
Shenandoah University

Daniel Fernandez
Universidad Francisco Marroquin

Daniel Houser
George Mason University

David H. Resler
Chief US Economist, Nomura (Retired)

David Ranson
HCWE & Co.

Dennis E. Logue
Steven Roth Professor, (Emeritus) Tuck School, Dartmouth Colleges

Derek Tittle
Georgia Institute of Technology

DeVon L. Yoho
Economist Ball State University (Retired)

Donald J. Oswald
California State University, Bakersfield (Retired)

Donald Koch
Koch Investments

Donald L. Alexander
Western Michigan University

Donald Luskin

Douglas C. Frechtling
George Washington University

Douglas Kahl
The University of Akron

Douglas O. Cook
The University of Alabama

E. Kingdon Hurlock Jr.
Calvert Investment Counsel

Edward M. Scahill
University of Scranton

Eleanor Craig
University of Delaware

F. Owen Irvine
Michigan State University (Emeritus)

Farhad Rassekh
University of Hartford

Francis Ahking
University of Connecticut

Frank Falero
California State University (Emeritus)

Gary R. Skoog
Legal Econometrics, Inc.

Gary Wolfram
Hillsdale College

Gene Simpson
NPTC, Auburn University

George Langelett
South Dakota State University

Gerald P. Dwyer
Clemson University

Gordon L. Brady
Joint Economic Committee (former)

Gil Sylvia
Oregon State University

H Daniel Foster

Hugo J. Faria
University of Miami

Inayat Mangla
Western Michigan University

J. Edward Graham
UNC Wilmington

Jagdish Bhagwati
Columbia University

James B. Kau
University of Georgia

James C.W. Ahiakpor
California State University, East Bay

James D. Adams
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

James D. Miller
Smith College

James F. Smith
EconForecaster, LLC

James Keeler
Kenyon College

James M. Mulcahy
SUNY – Buffalo economics department

James Moncur
University of Hawaii at Manoa

Jeffrey Dorfman
University of Georgia

Jerold Zimmerman
University of Rochester

Jody Lipford
Presbyterian College

Joe Cobb
Congressional Joint Economic Committee (1985-91)

John A. Baden
Chm., Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE)

John P. Eleazarian
American Economic Association

John C. Moorhouse
Wake Forest University (Emeritus)

John D. Johnson
Utah State University

John H McDermott
University of South Carolina

John McArthur
Wofford College

John Ruggiero
University of Dayton

John Semmens
Laissez Faire Institute

Joseph A. Giacalone
St. John’s University, NY

Joseph Haslag
University of Missouri-Columbia

Joseph S. DeSalvo
University of South Florida – Tampa

Joseph Zoric
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Kathleen B. Cooper
SMU’s John Tower Center for Politico Science

Kenneth V. Greene
Binghamton University (Emeritus)

Kenneth W. Chilton
John Hammond Institute at Lindenwood University

Lawrence Benveniste
Goizueta Business School, Emory University

Lawrence R. Cima
John Carroll University

Leon Wegge
University of California, Davis

Lloyd Cohen
Scalia Law School

Lucjan Orlowski
Sacred Heart University

Lydia Ortega
San Jose State University

M. Northrup Buechner
St. John’s University, New York

Maurice MacDonald
Kansas State University

Michael A. Morrisey
Texas A&M University

Michael Connolly
University of Miami

Michael D Brendler
Louisiana State University Shreveport.

Michael L. Marlow
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Moheb A. Ghali
Western Washington University

Nancy Roberts
Arizona State University

Nasser Duella
California State University, Fullerton

Nicolas Sanchez
College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA (Emeritus,)

Norman Lefton
Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville

Paul H. Rubin
Emory University

Pavel Yakovlev
Duquesne University

Pedro Piffaut
Columbia University

Peter E. Kretzmer
Bank of America

Peter S. Yun
UVAWISE (Emeritus)

Phillip J. Bryson
Brigham Young University (Emeritus)

R. Ashley Lyman
University of Idaho

R. L. Promboin
University of Maryland University College (former)

Richard J. Cebula
Jacksonville University

Richard Kilmer
University of Florida

Richard Timberlake
Prof. of Econ., Univ. of Ga. (Retired)

Richard Vedder
Ohio University

Robert B. Helms
American Enterprise Institute (Retired)

Robert F. Stauffer
Roanoke College , (Emeritus)

Robert Heller
Former Governor, Federal Reserve Board

Robert Sauer
Royal Holloway University

Robert Tamura
Clemson University

Roger Meiners
University of Texas-Arlington

Roger Sedjo
Resources for the Future (retired)

Sanjai Bhagat
University of Colorado Boulder

Scott Hein
Texas Tech University

Stan Liebowitz
University of Texas

Stephen Happel
Arizona State University

T. Craig Tapley
University of Florida

Thomas H. Mayor
University of Houston

Thomas J. Kniesner
Claremont Graduate University

Thomas M. Stoker
MIT (retired)

Thomas Saving
Texas A&M University

Timothy Mathews
Kennesaw State University

Tomi Ovaska
Youngstown State University

Tony Lima
California State University, East Bay

Victor a Canto
La Jolla economics

Vijay Singal
Navrang Inc

Wallace Hendricks
University of Illinois

Ward S. Curran
Trinity College Hartford Connecticut (Emeritus)

Wayne T. Brough
FreedomWorks Foundation

William Albrecht
University of Iowa

William B. Fairley
Analysis & Inference, Inc.

William Buchanan
Valdosta State University

William McKillop
Resource Economics (Emeritus)

William R. Allen
UCLA Department of Economics

William S. Peirce
Case Western Reserve University

Wim Vijverberg
CUNY Graduate Center

Xuepeng Liu
Kennesaw State University

Yuri N. Maltsev
A.W. Clausen Center for World Business, Carthage College

Even throwing out the obvious clinkers, that is an impressive list. What is more impressive is the list of those not making the cut. Here are a few:

One of those not included is Alan Blinder:

lan Stuart Blinder (born October 14, 1945) is an American economist. He serves at Princeton University as the Gordon S. Rentschler Memorial Professor of Economics and Public Affairs in the Economics Department, and vice chairman of The Observatory Group. He founded Princeton’s Griswold Center for Economic Policy Studies in 1990. Since 1978 he has been a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research.[1]He is also a co-founder and a vice chairman of the Promontory Interfinancial Network, LLC. He is among the most influential economists in the world according to IDEAS/RePEc,[2] and is “considered one of the great economic minds of his generation.”[3]

Blinder served on President Bill Clinton‘s Council of Economic Advisers (July 27, 1993 – June 26, 1994), and as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from June 27, 1994, to January 31, 1996. Blinder’s recent academic work has focused particularly on monetary policy and central banking,[4] as well as the “offshoring” of jobs, and his writing for lay audiences has been published primarily but not exclusively in New York TimesWashington Post and Wall Street Journal, where he now writes a regular monthly op-ed column. His latest book is After the Music Stopped, published by Penguin in January 2013.[5]

In a National Public Radio interview with host Michel Martin, Blinder had the following to contribute:

MARTIN: But we’ve heard that clip – we heard that clip from President Trump earlier. I mean, would it be fair to say that the economy is at 3 percent and that that was not expected either?

BLINDER: I think that’s probably fair. But you want to remember he’s talking about quarterly growth rates annualized. We have had any number of 3 percent-plus quarterly growth rates during the eight years that Obama was president, but the average was not 3 percent. So a 3 percent quarter now and again is not exactly a shocking development. Although I think it is fair to say that when President Trump got elected, most people would have predicted 3 percent for the recent quarter.

MARTIN: So before we let you go, could you just walk us through your baseline concern for people who are not familiar with what you’ve been saying? And I understand that you’re still continuing to write about this. What is your biggest concern walking through the next year and then perhaps in the out years after that?

BLINDER: Yes. First of all, it blows a hole in the budget at a time when we don’t really need this. We’re at full employment. We don’t need stimulus. It’s not 2009. Secondly, while the president has claimed this is the biggest tax cut in history, which is blatantly false, it probably is the most regressive tax cut in history.

Thirdly or fourthly or whatever I’m up to, under the guise of achieving greater simplification – remember; it was going to be on a postcard. The law opens up a number of new and pretty egregious loopholes while closing very few. So we’re going to get a more complex, more loophole-ridden tax code that’s regressive and unbalances the budget. Now you can ask me, what’s the good side?


[Emphasis added]

Another who failed to make the list was Nobel economist Richard Thaler:

Nobel economics winner says Trump tax plans spur inequality, tax avoidance

Reuters Staff

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – The U.S. tax overhaul supported by President Donald Trump and the Republican party will increase inequality and opportunities for tax avoidance, Nobel economics prize-winner Richard Thaler said on Thursday.

Apparently, economists who failed to make the RATE list are legion:

37 of 38 economists said the GOP tax plans would grow the debt. The 38th misread the question.

  November 22

An overwhelming majority of academic economists say in a new survey that the Republican tax proposals would cause America’s debt to grow by one critical measure.

Thirty-seven of 38 experts surveyed by the University of Chicago’s Initiative on Global Markets agreed that the GOP tax bills in Congress would cause U.S. debt to increase “substantially” faster than the economy.

Only one economist — Stanford’s Liran Einav — said that he was “uncertain” if the bills would exacerbate America’s debt-to-GDP ratio. But after the survey’s release, Einav said his response had been a mistake, and that he actually agrees with the economists who expect the debt ratio to soar. (Four other economists in the IGM panel didn’t answer the question one way or the other.)

[Emphasis added]

Aw shucks! The 37 who disagreed with the RATE letter amount to 100 fewer than those who signed. It is not readily apparent whether the two numbers would eventually line up if you subtract from the RATE list all those previously indicted for criminal acts or who are otherwise disenfranchised.

An item that came out in Mother Jones a month ago also runs counter to the RATE letter:

Nine Out of Ten Economists Agree: The Republican Tax Bill Is Ridiculous

The latest question put to the IGM Economic Experts Panel was about the Republican tax plan. Without further ado, the results:

That is far from a cry in the wilderness.

But enough of this. The lesson to be learned from this is that when you set out to produce a load of misguided legislation it is best not to pile on extra baggage. Pulling up a bogus list of “economists” in favor of the new tax bill is the equivalent of bringing your pimp boyfriend to the prom.

Regarding the government you paid for, there is a bright side. Supposedly major companies, now lightened by removal of a burdensome marginal tax rate, plan to return some of these savings to employees (not necessarily hire new employees) and also to investors. And guess what. Long since retired, I am living off my savings, said savings being invested where? You guessed it. I plan on drawing in some of those savings, giving me some extra jingle in my pocket.

But what to do with this largess? Truth be, as a retired person I spend my spare time sitting at this computer writing silly blog posts. I don’t expect my expenses to go up, so I will likely have spare change to throw around. I was thinking about writing a nice check next year to whoever runs against Senator Ted Cruz.

Thank you very much! Thank you very much! That’s the nicest thing that anyone’s ever done for me! I may sound double Dutch But my delight is such I feel as if a losing war’s been won for me And if I had a flag I’d hang me flag out To add a sort of final victory touch But since I left me flag at home I simply have to say Thank you very very very much! Thank you very very very much!

One thought on “The Government You Paid For

  1. Pingback: The Government You Paid For | Skeptical Analysis

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