The economy is on a sugar high, and tax cuts won’t help

Consensus expectations for 2018 are only marginally greater today than they were before the election.

.. The U.S. stock market has been very strong, rising by close to 25 percent since the election, which is far more than most observers expected a year ago. This appears to be heavily driven by increases in corporate profits. But performance is running behind that of Japan and Germany, belying the idea that the market is being driven by U.S.-specific policy factors.

.. If something fundamental had happened to improve the U.S. business environment, we would have seen capital inflows and an appreciating currency.

.. Even very innovative companies such as Apple and Google cannot find enough high-return investments and so choose to engage in large-scale share repurchases.

.. There will be no meaningful and sustained growth in workers’ take-home pay without successful measures both to raise productivity growth and to achieve greater equality. Only in this way can we achieve healthy growth.

.. The bipartisan Simpson-Bowles budget commission was surely not biased toward big government. Yet it concluded that the federal government needed a revenue base equal to 21 percent of gross domestic product. The tax-cut legislation now under consideration would leave the federal government with a revenue basis of 17 percent of GDP — a difference that works out to $1 trillion a year within the budget window.
.. This will further starve already inadequate levels of public investment in infrastructure, human capital and science. It will likely mean further cuts in safety-net programs and cause more people to fall behind. And because it will also mean higher deficits and capital costs, it will likely crowd out as much private investment as it stimulates.