A favorite Republican talking point lately is that the businesses are not creating jobs because they are “hamstrung by uncertainty.” According to this argument, the specter of taxes and regulation is paralyzing companies, and if only Congress would preserve the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and promise to not produce any new regulations, a flood of business investment would ensue. Last night on CNBC, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) told supply-side guru and Reagan disciple Larry Kudlow that the way to get businesses to “unleash” the nearly $2 trillion in cash and assets they’re currently sitting on is to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich and then cut marginal income tax rates even further. “C’mon, we know what works,” Pence said:
C’mon, we know what works. Larry, you know what works better than most Americans, and that is across-the-board marginal tax relief…We’ve got to demand, whether it’s this fall, whether it’s after the election, or whether it’s in a newly minted Congress next year, we’ve got to demand that we preserve tax relief, no American sees a tax increase on January 1, and then promote across-the-board tax relief on marginal rates that’ll really unleash all that more than $2 trillion in trapped capital in this economy.
It seems like some variation of “c’mon!” has become the Republican leadership’s go-to argument these days, but Pence shouldn’t be so smug when it comes to the efficacy of marginal income tax cuts to spur business investment. As The Wonk Room explains, business investment following the Clinton-era tax increase far outstripped that following either the Bush or Reagan supply-side tax cuts. “The failure of investment to respond to supply-side tax cuts greatly undermines the central premise of the theory underlying the policy,” wrote economists Michael Ettlinger and John Irons.