Evaluating presidential candidates’ economic proposals

Most of the presidential candidates’ economic proposals are bad, although a few have some merit, according to a panel of economists contacted by NPR’s Planet Money.

Katherine Baicker, C. Boyden Gray Professor of Health Economics at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, was one of the panelists interviewed on for the show’s February 26, 2016 episode. She called Ted Cruz’s plan for a 10% flat tax “bad” and said that simplifying the tax code is a great idea, but she doesn’t think a 10% across-the-board tax would raise enough money. She also doesn’t favor the flat tax because it wouldn’t be “progressive”— it wouldn’t tax those who are richer at a higher rate.

On the other hand, Baicker did like an idea proposed by three candidates—Clinton, Sanders, and Donald Trump—to raise taxes on private investment fund managers whose earnings are currently taxed at a low rate because of the so-called “carried interest” loophole. “The work they’re doing is no more valuable than that of lots and lots of other people, like doctors and people who run soup kitchens,” Baicker said. “They shouldn’t get preferential treatment.”

All the economists, including Baicker, disliked Trump’s plan to expel undocumented immigrants. “I think it would have bad effects on the economy, but it’s such a terrible idea that it’s hard to put those economic effects as the first thing you think about,” she said.

Baicker was also interviewed March 7, 2016 on American Public Media’s Marketplace about how retail health clinics aren’t saving money. “People had hoped that by making retail clinics available that we’d see a big reduction in emergency department use,” Baicker said. “And we just haven’t seen that.”

Listen to the Planet Money story: Economists On Candidates’ Proposals: Mostly Bad

Listen to the Marketplace story: Retail clinics aren’t saving money as initially hoped