In his new book, Casey B. Mulligan explains how, in the matter of a few quarters of 2008 and 2009, new federal and state laws greatly enhanced the help given to the poor and unemployed – from expansion of food-stamp eligibility to enlargement of food-stamp benefits to payment of unemployment bonuses – sharply eroding (and, in some cases, fully eliminating) the incentives for workers to seek and retain jobs, and for employers to create jobs or avoid layoffs.
Economists normally think that eroding incentives (as they call it, raising marginal labor income tax rates) depresses the labor market rather than expanding it, and that it would be tough for the labor market to get back to its 2007 form without returning incentives to what they were back then.
Yet Professor Krugman asserts that he would end this depression now with an even bigger stimulus – with more help for the poor and unemployed – that would further erode incentives and further penalize success.
Remarkably, “End This Depression Now!” says nothing about marginal tax rates or incentives to work, either as they actually evolved or as they would appear in Professor Krugman’s ideal stimulus. Nor does the book explain why economists or anyone else should ignore sharp marginal tax-rate increases, or why paying people for not working would have nearly the expansionary effect of military buildups and the like. (These absences are conspicuous to economists who are familiar with Professor Krugman’s academic work on how excessive debts harm debtor incentives.)…
Choosen excerpts by JMM from