Time for Independent Fiscal Committees

Tim Besley and Andrew Scott advocate the establishment of independent fiscal committees to improve the quality of fiscal policy formation: you can read the Vox article here.

2010 Bhagwati Award goes to Philip Lane

Congratulations to Philip for being the joint winner of the 2010 Bhagwati Award, together with his co-author Gian Maria Milesi-Ferreti. Their work has been extremely influential, and this recognition is richly deserved.

Trinity scientists on inequality aversion

Normal people are hard-wired to dislike inequality, it appears.

It reminded me of the famous quote from Keynes, in this beautiful essay:

The love of money as a possession -as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life -will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semicriminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

A 20 Percent Tax Rate for Higher Earners?

On Tuesday night near the end of his TV3 show, Vincent Browne returned to one his favourite themes, the taxation of those on higher incomes. He put the following statement to Fianna Fail TD, Timmy Dooley

In June of last year, the Department of Finance showed that in spite of efforts to close off tax loopholes in the 2007 and 2008 budgets, people earning over a half a million still pay only 20 percent of their income in tax. Now why weren’t they targeted rather than people on social welfare?

Dooley told Browne that the budget had seen an increase in the effective tax rate for these individuals to 30 percent, to which Mister Browne responded, “Not true, It’s just not true.” Later, after Mister Dooley discussed other steps taken to stabilise the public finances, Browne asserted that “You could have achieved the same thing by targeting people earning half a million and you didn’t bother.”

On the same theme, in his column in Wednesday’s Irish Times, Browne stated

How come there was no crisis when a report by the Department of Finance last June disclosed that, in spite of the alleged attempt to close tax loopholes, the average effective tax rate for people earning over €500,000 was just 20 per cent?

I’d like to address three aspects of the TV exchange and this column.

The Financing of Healthcare

In addition to the acute problems caused by the economic crisis,  Ireland (along with all other countries) must also resolve chronic policy challenges, with the financing of healthcare near the top of that list.

This article in The Economist provides an interesting cross-country survey of the pros and cons of private insurance.