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Muni Bond Exemption Benefits Issuers, Not Buyers

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Brookings has an analysis of Romney’s tax plan that asserts it won’t consider the possibility of exempting the muni bond tax exemption because Romney has proposed to expand tax incentives on savings and investment. The assumption is that muni bond tax exemptions are obviously incentives for savings and investment, so Romney can’t simultaneously say he’s for savings and investment while proposing to cut the muni bond tax exemption.

It’s hard to take serious a document that uses the phrase ‘tax expenditure’ vastly more frequently than ‘tax revenue’, but this claim that the muni bond tax exemption is consistent with helping savers is ludicrous. As muni bonds are a minor portion of total assets held by savers, the tax break does not go to the buyers but rather the sellers. In equilibrium, the expected return to investors–after tax–is equal among assets, so it doesn’t create a deal for investors. That is, the adjustment in equilibrium is on the borrower side, in that they don’t have to pay as much. The buyer gets the same after tax return.

 So much for savings, how about investment? Does anyone think states are not borrowing enough in the secular sense? I would think that most states have too much accumulated debt coming from perpetual deficits. If anything, dad needs to apply some tough love and tear up their credit card. Unfortunately, the Federal government is not so much like an adult dad, but rather, a teen mom from a dysfunctional reality show hoping to emulate Snooki’s improbable payoff for being unapologetically stupid. We need more investment in stuff that increases productivity, not the redistribution (eg, payoffs to underfunded pensions) that dominates state expenditures.


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