John Irons

John S. Irons is the Research and Policy Director at the Economic Policy Institute.

Recent Articles

Economic Recovery and Fiscal Balance

We can finance both long-term fiscal balance and adequate investment -- without increasing taxes on the working middle class.

The economy remains fragile and is performing well below its potential. Despite this, Congress has little appetite for further action to support jobs and growth, and the deficit has become the fig leaf of choice for those wanting to stand in the way of additional supports. But deficit reduction and job creation are not competing priorities. Job creation is needed today to ensure a strong economy and a solid tax base tomorrow: You can't reach reasonable budget targets without a strong and rapid recovery, and you won't get a strong recovery if you pursue austerity in a weak economy. Without a variety of policy interventions, including the 2009 Recovery Act, the downturn would have been far worse. A recent, comprehensive report from economists Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi estimated that the unemployment rate would stand near 16 percent if it were not for anti-recession policies. However, although gross domestic product growth has turned positive, it has not been strong enough to generate...

Why You Should Care About the 2007 Economic Nobel

Who are those guys? What exactly is "mechanism design theory" and what does it mean? TAP gets an economist to explain it all.

"Is there something interesting to say about this year’s Nobel Prize winners?" challenged my colleague next door. Could I explain what Leonid Hurwicz, Eric S. Maskin, and Roger B. Myerson did that was so great? "Yes!" I replied. "Their research on 'mechanism design theory' broadly, and incentive compatibility and preference revelation specifically, are an important part of several sub-fields including game theory, public economics, and even some social choice theory." "No," he said, "something interesting to the broader public." Hmm, well that’s harder. I sent him packing (literally -- he caught a flight to LA). And I also sent the idea to the back-of-the-brain. Fortunately, the back-of-the-brain has lots of things bouncing around. While there, "mechanism design" met Al Gore and had a chat with carbon cap-and-trade policy. And I realized that the way to understand the importance of this year's economics Nobel was to take a look at how we debate the usefulness of markets. A key insight...

Estate's Rites

As early as next month, some Democrats seem ready to go along with most Republicans and implement a permanent repeal to the estate tax, a change that would reward the wealthy and drag down the economy by increasing the deficit. But it doesn't have to be this way. The estate tax represents a profoundly American idea: Although parents should be able to pass on wealth to their children, great concentrations of personal wealth should not grow unchecked from generation to generation. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it, “Inherited economic power is as inconsistent with the ideals of this generation as inherited political power was inconsistent with the ideals of the generation which established our government.” Today, only about the wealthiest 1 percent of those who die in a given year pay the estate tax. With estate planning, married couples can leave at least $3 million to their children completely tax-free. In 2001, President Bush's first tax bill phased out the estate tax by 2010, but...

A Tax Plan for Progressives

For four years President Bush has touted his tax cuts as an economic cure-all, but middle-income workers have instead watched helplessly as the tiny tax cut they received has gone to pay for higher property taxes, tuition increases, and exploding medical costs. While the conservatives' tax initiatives have wreaked havoc on people barely living on their paychecks, wealthy taxpayers have enjoyed ever-higher incomes taxed at stunningly lower rates. Furthermore, Bush's tax cuts have wrecked public services and undermined prospects for long-term economic growth. Progressives share a responsibility to not only oppose the conservative tax program but to offer a sensible alternative: reform to make our tax system fair, simple, and fiscally responsible. We need to see to it that middle-class Americans get the relief they need, and that our nation has the wherewithal to make the investments it must. Since coming to Washington, President Bush has launched a series of initiatives to shift America'...