Taxing Choices and Pandemic Progress

Blog Post
Wednesday, May 26, 2021

This week on Facing the Future we heard from two experts on two pressing issues: How to pay for infrastructure investments and how we’re doing in the fight against COVID-19. 

My first guest was tax policy expert Donald Marron of the Urban Institute in Washington DC. Don has been looking at some possible options for paying for infrastructure, such as President Biden’s corporate proposals, a gas tax increase, a Vehicle Mileage Tax and a carbon tax. We discussed Don’s views on the pros and cons of these ideas.

“On the corporate side,” Marron said, “the main way I would think about its effect on our economy is over the long-term, about whether you can design a tax system that raises the revenues you need but encourages investment in the U.S., or at least avoids discouraging investment in the U.S. Then, it is the accumulation of investment in the U.S. over time that helps make the economy more productive, that pushes up wages and all those kinds of things.”

“In the standard models and standard analysis, these effects are real but they take time to accumulate and they are of medium to modest size,” he explained.

While open to a carbon tax, Marron acknowledged that, “the politics of a carbon tax at the moment, and using it for infrastructure, are a heavy lift.” Still, he said, “as a technical analytical matter, it deserves to be in the mix.”

In the next segment, Concord Coalition National Field Director Phil Smith joined me for a conversation with Emory University Epidemiologist Jodie Guest about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Guest noted there was a lot of good news: Vaccinations are trending up; new cases, hospitalizations and deaths are trending down. “We’re seeing these home runs, one after the other, with these vaccines...beyond our wildest dreams,” she said.

But are we ditching the masks too soon?

Guest went through some regional variations in vaccinations. “Generally speaking, we’re seeing the southeastern states not doing quite as well as a lot of the northeastern states,” she said, noting that in the northeastern states “most of them are crossing fifty percent of the entire state being vaccinated, and that’s still with people under 12 not even being eligible to be vaccinated” 

She warned, however, that “if cases continue to brew in communities, it is the perfect spot for variants to grow and spread. Our vaccines are fantastic and they likely have very good efficacy against all of the variants we know about, but that doesn’t mean those are all the variants we’re going to get. We want those vaccines to continue to work really well and to do so we need to keep the variants down, and we do that by keeping the cases down, and we do that by either getting vaccinated or wearing your mask if you’re not fully vaccinated.”

Hear both interviews on Facing the Future. I host the program each week on WKXL, NHTalkRadio.com (N.H.), and it is also available via podcast. Join my guests and me as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget and experts, industry leaders, and elected officials. Past broadcasts are available here. You can subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeart Radio or with an RSS feed. Follow Facing the Future on Facebook, and watch videos from past episodes on The Concord Coalition YouTube channel.