Return on Government Investment: Key Programs Come Out On Top!


July 9, 2012
Allison Burket, Emerson National Hunger Fellow

As we discussed our recent “Don’t Fall for the Fiscal Cliff Rhetoric” blog post, misinformation and misperceptions on federal spending, tax policy, and their impact on the economy abound. As the end of the year tax and budget battles approach, I thought I’d take the time to look back at the facts — “What gives us the biggest bang for our government buck?”

Similarly, the Earned Income Tax Credit, depending on the location, can generate anywhere from $1.50 to $2.00 in local economic activity. This is part of the reason why there has been such strong showing of support from local governments for the EITC and CTC.

So, how do other policy proposals in the table match up? Mark Zandi responded to this same question during testimony back in February before the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. Unlike SNAP or the EITC or unemployment insurance, extending tax cuts for the wealthy don’t produce nearly the economic benefit that anti-poverty programs generate. Zandi calculated that for each dollar of revenue lost by making permanent the reduced tax rate on capital gains and dividends, which overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy, we get about 39 cents of economic activity generated. And a cut in the corporate tax rate would only generate 30 cents! In other words, from an economic impact point of view, when we invest in tax cuts for the wealthy over investments in working families, we lose money.

As the end of year approaches and the expiring Bush tax cuts loom large, it’s important to remember that the choices have consequences. And Congress must be reminded of its responsibility to make the best choice for all of us — invest in families and communities or enact more tax cuts for those who don’t need them.

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