Bruce Bartlett, the VAT, and the Right
In an interview with Pejman Yousefzadeh on why Supply Side Economics has outlived its usefulness and the United States desperately needs a Value Added Tax, former WSJ columnist Bruce Bartlett remarks, “I have yet to find anyone on the right who takes any of my arguments seriously.”
The line happens to be Glenn Reynolds‘ takeaway from the entire interview and it is both amusing and illuminating.
It’s amusing because I picture Bartlett in the role of Zathras. As you may recall, no one listen to poor Zathras. Zathras used to being beat of burden to other people’s needs. Very sad life. Probably have very sad death. But at least there is symmetry.
It’s illuminating because, while he’s left the reservation, Bartlett has pretty solid Movement credentials. In addition to his journalism career, he served in the cabinets of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and worked for Jack Kemp. Indeed, he helped draft the cornerstone achievement of Supply Side Economics, the Kemp-Roth tax cuts of 1981. Then again, he started his political career working for Ron Paul, so maybe he’s coming full circle.
But, depending on one’s definitions, there are certainly people “on the right” who favor a VAT — including very influential economists like Greg Mankiw and Tyler Cowen. Now, whether they take Bartlett very seriously on the issue is another question.
And while I tend to agree with Bartlett that “There is simply no evidence that tax cuts would do the slightest good under current economic conditions,” he’s not exactly likely to win over opponents when he says, “Those who propose them are simply repeating tired dogma.” That’s not argument, it’s name calling.