Benn Steil


A graphical take on geoeconomic issues, with links to the news and expert commentary.

There’s a $1 Trillion Hole in Romney’s Budget Math

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker Thursday, October 18, 2012
Major Tax Expenditures

In last week’s vice-presidential debate, Republican Paul Ryan defended the fiscal prudence of lowering top marginal income tax rates by arguing that it would be accompanied by “forego[ing] about $1.1 trillion in loopholes and deductions . . . deny[ing] those loopholes and deductions to higher-income taxpayers.” The $1.1 trillion he refers to is actually an amalgam of specific “tax expenditures” – benefits distributed through reductions in taxes otherwise owed – identified by the Joint Committee on Taxation.  We break out the largest 10 of these graphically in the figure above. The full list is available here: Read more »

The Fed Should Pledge to Stop Pledging for a While

by Benn Steil and Dinah Walker Thursday, October 11, 2012
pledge to stop pledging

Back in February, Benn argued that the Fed’s three-year zero-rate pledge, combined with a 2% long-run inflation target, may have been a pledge too far, given the Fed’s poor forecasting record going back decades.  The Board of Governors’ and Reserve Banks’ first three-year forecasts in October 2007, for example, were wildly off the mark: actual 2010 GDP, unemployment, and inflation were all outside the range of the 17 forecasts.  Yet at its September meeting, the Fed’s Open Market Committee extended its zero-rate pledge into 2015, on the basis of its forecast that unemployment would still be significantly above their “longer run” expectation at that time—as shown in the figure above.  But last week’s September payrolls report revealed that the unemployment rate had dropped more than anticipated, to 7.8%, putting the 6-month trend line into 2015 well within the Fed’s comfort zone.  This implies that interest rates, by the Fed’s own reasoning, may well need to rise sooner.  We think it’s time that the Fed pledged to stop pledging for a while. Read more »