Currency Crises, Monetary Union and the Conduct of Monetary Policy: A Debate among Leading Economists

By Paul J. Zak | Go to book overview

3. Taxation, Employment and the Federal Reserve

Introduced by Robert A. Mundell

Corden: Let's get on to Bob Mundell to introduce this topic.

Mundell: I have a question for Paul Samuelson and Jim Tobin. Take note, for a minute, of the US economy over the past fifteen years, in fact, since 1982. If we get away from always measuring expansion from the last depression or mini-depression and look at the long picture, from 1982 until the present the US economy has created something on the order of 35 million jobs. This is a creation of jobs that is completely exceptional in US history, but I also think it's exceptional for any country's history at any time. Of course, that's broken by a nine month recession from June 1990 until May 1991. Except for that downturn, that was a tremendous period of expansion; equivalent to another Germany with a labor force of something around 35 million. It's true, as Paul said, that some of these are poor jobs; but I think there's probably some exaggeration in that. The fact is that this is a remarkable period in history.

The question becomes what has been the driving force behind this period? I agree that it is certainly not just Paul Volker and Alan Greenspan, who were there. It occurs to me that the tax changes that occurred in the early 1980s played a role in this. This brings me around to the question I want to ask: Do you believe this expansion, looking over the whole period, would have gone on so long if there had not been those two sets of tax changes in the early 1980s? If it is true that they had an effect, or if you believe they did not have an effect, do you believe that tax rates should be put back up to the level they were in 1980? At

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