The Battle of Two Santas

In June 1976, Jude Wanniski wrote an article titled “Taxes and a Two-Santa Theory” that came to be one of the seminal works to help shape Republican policy.

However, what was a good policy prescription in 1976 is not necessarily a winning strategy applicable to today. After decades of pursuing the tax cutting Santa, there might not still be room to cut taxes further without serious budgetary consequences that would require the kind of painful spending cuts that Wanniski argued hindered the party from achieving electoral success pre-1970s.

In addition to the policy question marks, it is not clear that pursuing either Santa strategy is a surefire political winner today. Indeed, the only clear result is that Governors (the office level we look at) who are lucky enough to utilize both Santas have tremendous reelection success, and Scrooges certainly have a tougher time in their next election.

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Be Careful What You Wish For

It is par for the course for Republicans, particularly those with presidential ambitions, to promote plans for states to keep more of their money and send less to Washington to be redistributed among the other states. And while there is no polar opposite argument being made to counter this viewpoint, there are many on the Left arguing that those with more means should be taxed higher as a method to cure our country’s fiscal issues. Following the 2014 elections, we thought it would be interesting to look into the numbers and try to determine whether these arguments hold water or if they are campaign messaging and little else.

Read the full memo here.

The Endless Struggle for Tax Reform

It’s been 18 years since the last serious effort to reform the nation’s tax code, and once again the chorus is rising to fix the badly out of date system. Democrats and Republicans alike agree that tax reform would help spur economic growth and fix inequality in the system, and Republicans are even hinting that if they win the Senate in the midterm elections, tax reform would be one of their main goals during Obama’s last two years in office. But despite this outward showing in favor of reform, what are the chances this actually happens? In our opinion: Don’t hold your breath.

Read the full memo here.

Resolving the Fiscal Crises

Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of chatter about the Congressional sequester cuts going through and shock from some that we have reached this point. This astonishment is somewhat warranted given that Congress and the White House reached a deal to avoid going over the so-called fiscal cliff in January, and then voted to raise the debt ceiling for a three month time period. So why has there been no deal or at a minimum a punt?

Read the full memo here.

The Advocacy Gap: Research for Better Advocacy

In collaboration with Englin Consulting, we surveyed nearly 4,000 activists from eight different nonprofit organizations with active advocacy programs about how they participate in advocacy, what they think is most effective at moving the needle on policy they care about, and how they feel about their advocacy experiences.

Concurrently, we conducted off the record in-depth interviews with current and former senior Hill staff from both sides of the aisle and both houses of Congress. We asked about how various advocacy tactics were received, the best ways to get attention for an issue on the Hill, how their offices dealt with different types of constituent communications, and their best advice for people running advocacy programs.

What emerged was a fascinating picture of what we have dubbed the “Advocacy Gap,” a disconnect between how activists mobilize and how Hill staff say they should mobilize to move a policy issue.

Read the full report here.

Democrats and the December 2012 Fiscal Cliff: A Look at Who Should Strike a Deal and When

On January 1, 2013, the federal government is scheduled to undertake massive revenue and spending changes. The Bush Tax Cuts for all Americans will expire, along with a host of tax extenders such as the Alternative Minimum Tax “patch” and the Medicare “Doc Fix.” On the spending side, the failure of the Super Committee to reach an agreement last year will result in the sequester (cuts to spending) of $1.2 trillion split evenly between defense and non-defense programs over the next decade. These two events would be enough to make for a busy end of the year on the Congressional schedule, but to make the situation a little more interesting, the federal government will also reach its debt ceiling around the same time.

We believe that waiting to deal with these issues until after the election is a missed opportunity for both the Republican and Democratic parties. In fact, both parties stand to lose if something is not done before the election.

Read the full memo here.