Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Jarvis Babcock

Committee Member(s)

Luis Fernandez
James Zinser


Permanent income, Hypothesis, Tax cuts, Income, Consumer spending, Source


For several years, economists have been debating how well Federal tax policy changes have performed in readjusting the economy. Tax change policies have been instituted periodically since World War II up to the very present. The goals sought by the legislators have varied. The tax cut policy in the Kennedy administration was set up to invigorate a recessionary economy. Under the Reagan administration, tax cuts are a tool to increase savings and investment. Part of the reason for the inconsistency in policy aims is due to the lack of consensus on how a tax cut will perform in a given period . Most predictive models ignore the state of the economy at the time, the degree of consumer optimism, and lags in the adjustment of consumer expectations. These variables are vital in determining the consumers' reactions to a given tax cut during a given economic phase . Moreover, whether consumers can even distinguish the windfalls from a tax cut apart from increases in take home pay from a wage hike, is a matter of debate.

Recent discussions have been focused on the temporal nature of the tax cuts. The significance of the issue seems real enough such that cuts are determined and categorized according to their permanent or transitory nature of consumer spending after a tax reduction that is permanent or one that is temporary (either a one-shot rebate or a cut specified to last for one or two years) , can be measured to see whether each has a distinctive effect on consumer spending. The widely accepted Permanent Income Hypothesis (PIH) states that transitory changes have their main impact on saving and not on consumption. Permanent Income on which consumer spending is based, is a weighted average of consumers' past incomes, for consumption patterns take time to readjust to increments in today's income. Given this view, a temporary tax cut will barely have an effect on permanent income , since the change is known to be temporary. Consumption will then proceed in the same direction as if there had been no tax change at all . Macroeconomists argue that a rise in income stimulates consumer spending. A tax cut is easily associated with the growth of consumer spending, if one agrees with the premise that consumers have treated the increase in take-horne pay from the tax cut in the same way they treat increases in their take-home pay from other sources (Okun, 1971). Given the supposition that consumers plan their spending patterns over a horizon, the consumers would calculate a larger spending increase today, knowing that they will attain the same tax cut in each future period.

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Economics Commons