Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Policy Implications of Capital-Biased Technology: Opening Remarks



“OK, maybe that was too quick. Let me take it more slowly: a substantial part of our social insurance system — Social Security and the hospital insurance portion of Medicare — is funded through dedicated payroll taxes. If payrolls lag behind overall national income, this will tend to leave those programs underfunded given the way the laws are currently written.

But America as a whole won’t have gotten poorer: the money is still there to support the programs, it’s just coming in the form of capital rather than labor income. There would be no problem, at least in economic terms, in continuing the programs by adding revenue from general taxation, maybe even from dedicated taxes on capital income.

And consider the alternative, in which we slash Social Security and Medicare not because the nation can’t afford those programs, but merely because workers are taking a smaller share of national income. What we would be doing in that case is doubling down on the damage to workers — they’re already hurting because income is shifting away from labor, and we’re going to hurt them even more by cutting the benefits they depend upon.”

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