You have probably heard about the exasperated President Truman asking for a “one-handed economist” because all of his economics advisers were prone to saying “on the one hand… on the other hand.” Or, perhaps you’ve heard of the First Law of Economists: for every economist, there exists an equal and opposite economist (with the Second Law of Economists being that they are both wrong). Or, you might have even heard that if you were to lay all economists end-to-end, they still wouldn’t reach a conclusion.
Hilarious, indeed, and fair enough, it’s true that our profession is prone to qualifying our assessments. But as a recent NPR Marketplace segment uncover, there are some thing views that seem to hold from east-to-west, from north-to-south, and, yes, from left-to-right across the profession.
And here they are, six shared policy beliefs among economists:
One: Eliminate the mortgage tax deduction, which lets homeowners deduct the interest they pay on their mortgages. Gone. After all, big houses get bigger tax breaks, driving up prices for everyone. Why distort the housing market and subsidize people buying expensive houses?
Two: End the tax deduction companies get for providing health-care to employees. Neither employees nor employers pay taxes on workplace health insurance benefits. That encourages fancier insurance coverage, driving up usage and, therefore, health costs overall. Eliminating the deduction will drive up costs for people with workplace healthcare, but makes the health-care market fairer.
Three: Eliminate the corporate income tax. Completely. If companies reinvest the money into their businesses, that’s good. Don’t tax companies in an effort to tax rich people.
Four: Eliminate all income and payroll taxes. All of them. For everyone. Taxes discourage whatever you’re taxing, but we like income, so why tax it? Payroll taxes discourage creating jobs. Not such a good idea. Instead, impose a consumption tax, designed to be progressive to protect lower-income households.
Five: Tax carbon emissions. Yes, that means higher gasoline prices. It’s a kind of consumption tax, and can be structured to make sure it doesn’t disproportionately harm lower-income Americans. More, it’s taxing something that’s bad, which gives people an incentive to stop polluting.
Six: Legalize marijuana. Stop spending so much trying to put pot users and dealers in jail — it costs a lot of money to catch them, prosecute them, and then put them up in jail. Criminalizing drugs also drives drug prices up, making gang leaders rich.
The catch, of course, is that politicians tend to not like these policies. You can listen to the full NPR segment here.
For more on what economists do and don’t agree on, you might check out this survey from Robert Whaples at the Econ Journal Watch.