Research

You can find a full list of my publications on my CV here. The title and abstracts of my current working papers are below.

Drifting Toward Tax Revolts: Inflation, Indexation, and the Rise of Anti-Tax Politics in the 1970s

Most accounts of the election and concomitant anti-tax agenda of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher see them as the result of resurgent conservative movements, business group mobilization, or dependent on progressive tax structures. The election of conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in Canada casts doubt on this conventional wisdom. Leveraging evidence from this new case, I argue that tax cuts were a reaction against inflation-induced erosion of tax exemptions and bracket creep. By refusing to introduce indexation into the tax system in order to raise more revenue, left-leaning policymakers adopted a strategy of policy drift leading to real increases in the tax burden on working and middle class families in the U.S. and U.K. Popular support for tax cuts was a response rising taxes. The early decision of Canadian policymakers to index the tax system prevented an increase in tax burdens and thus a similar anti-tax backlash there. As a result, the election of a conservative government in Canada did not lead to a pursuit of the same anti-tax agenda due to a lack of popular support. Ironically, the anti-tax backlash in the U.S. and U.K. can be traced to attempts by left-leaning governments to increase revenues by stealth.

Institutional Anchors and Social Movement Advocacy: The Case of the Pro-Family Right in the U.S. and Canada

Scholars studying Evangelical movements in the United States and Canada often note that although the two groups have similar conservative views on social issues, Evangelicals in Canada do not share the same conservative economic views as their counterparts in the United States.  The introduction of child tax credits, under pressure primarily from Evangelical pro-family groups in both countries, allows us to examine the factors behind this divergence. Whereas American groups sought to limit tax credits to middle class taxpayers, Canadian groups sought to concentrate tax credits on the poorest families. Rather than reflecting broad differences in national culture, interest group strength, or state structures, I argue that these actions were institutionally anchored in different policy legacies which shaped the views of pro-family groups in each country. In doing so, this paper further highlights the link between culture and institutions.

Why No Fiscal Equalization in the United States? State Bargaining Power and Interstate Redistribution

Among advanced welfare regimes with federal forms of government, only the United States lacks a program of fiscal equalization to reduce regional disparities in fiscal capacity between states. Despite the association between limited fiscal capacity, regressive taxation, and meager social spending among states, research on the unique absence equalization in the U.S. is almost nonexistent. This article fills this gap in the literature with a comparative analysis of the U.S. and Canada from the 1930s through 1970s. I argue that differences in postwar bargaining power explain why poor Canadian provinces were able to successfully lobby for equalization while poor American states failed. In doing so, I challenge previous explanations based on racial animosity, conservative ideology, and legislative institutions to show the importance of seemingly minor factors in setting the U.S. on the distinctive trajectory we call American exceptionalism.

The Road Not Taken: The Politics of Mortgage Tax Relief in the U.S. and U.K.

Both the U.S. and the U.K. introduced tax deductions for (mortgage) interest paid as part of their original income tax legislation. Whereas the home mortgage interest deduction (HMID) has come to be seen as an untouchable “third rail” in American politics, the British government quietly eliminated mortgage interest relief (MIR) in 2000. This paper traces the divergence in outcomes to the 1970s with an emphasis on the interaction between institutions and policy sequence. The 1974 decision of British policymakers to place a nominal cap on MIR led to substantial erosion in the inflationary decade that followed. This weakened political support, allowing successive governments to actively reduce and eliminate it between 1991 and 2000. The structure of American political institutions prevented policymakers from successfully placing a nominal cap on HMID until 1987, at which point inflation was back under control. As a result, the political cost of directly attacking HMID remains strong until this day.

Drafts available upon request.

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