Monday Smackdown: Paul Krugman on Kevin Hassett et al.

Should-Read: Larry Summers: America’s tax plan is not worth its name: "The US administration’s tax plan... a mélange of ideas put forth without precision or arithmetic.... The claims of Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, and Kevin Hassett, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, are some combination of ignorant, disingenuous and dishonest...

…We know enough to know that a tax reform plan along the lines of the administration’s sketch will not substantially increase growth, will blow out the budget deficit and will make America an even more unequal place…. The most rapid growth in gross domestic product that the US has seen took place in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when top tax rates were nearly twice as high as now…. What about the budget deficit? In order for tax cuts to pay for themselves, as Mr Mnuchin sometimes asserts, they would have to massively spur growth…. It is unlikely they will have any important effect on growth….

Finally, there is the question of fairness. Those secure in their beliefs do not, as Mr Mnuchin did, seek to de-publish studies by apolitical civil servants. There is very little doubt among serious economists that the immediate impact of corporate tax cuts would be to help corporations and that the vast majority of corporate shareholding is concentrated among those at the top of the income and wealth distribution….

This week the world’s finance ministers and central bank governors will gather in Washington for the annual International Monetary Fund-World Bank meetings. These meetings used to be a time when the US urged other countries to respect the laws of economics and arithmetic in formulating economic policies. This time the lecturing should go in the opposite direction. The international community should make sure that US officials have a very uncomfortable week. Just possibly, that will be enough to get the administration economic team to consult their consciences as well as their Twitter accounts.