Saturday, May 28, 2011


I was looking at Andrew Gelman's blog and saw his discussion of Ray Fisman's piece on compensation. I was especially struck by this statement:

Yet this aversion to pay cuts isn't good for workers or the American economy more broadly. More people end up losing their jobs than if wages were more flexible, and there are serious long-term consequences for the workers who lose their monthly paychecks. The negative impact on a worker's earnings, health, and even the earning prospects of his children lasts decades beyond the pink slip's arrival. Creative solutions—like the furloughs that cut government salaries in California and elsewhere—might help to make lower pay more palatable, by presenting the cut as a temporary measure and by creating at least the illusion of a lower workload. If we can find other ways of overcoming the simmering resentment that naturally accompanies wage cuts, workers themselves will be better for it in the long run.

I wonder how this links with tax increases. Greg Mankiw seemed to be quite displeased by the prospect of tax increases (which are a form of reducing compensation).

If this relation works the same way, then there are two implications:

1) Tax cuts are a terrible idea as a way of providing economic stimulus as they will do little to increase output (3 hours according to Fisman's experiment) but will be greatly resented if they are rescinded

2) High taxes (like low pay) seems to have little effect on income so if you rise taxes then you should raise them by a lot so you only feel the pain of resentment once.

I am not sure that this position is correct, but it sure is thought provoking.

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