The Republicans are telling us that cutting in the corporate tax rate will lead to a big $4000 pay increase for ordinary workers. The story goes that lower taxes will lead to a flood of new investment. This will increase productivity and higher productivity will be passed on to workers in higher wages.
That's a nice story, but the data refuse to go along. My friend Josh Bivens took a quick look at the relationship across countries between corporate tax rates and the capital-to-labor ratio. If the investment boom story is true, then countries with the lowest corporate tax rate would have the highest capital-to-labor ratio.
Josh found the opposite. The countries with the highest capital-to-labor ratios actually had higher corporate tax rates on average than countries with lower capital-to-labor ratios. While no one would try to claim based on this evidence that raising the corporate tax rate would lead to more investment, it certainly is hard to reconcile this one with the Republicans' story.
Just to consider all the possibilities. Josh looked to see if there was a relationship between the change in the tax rate and change in the capital-to-labor ratio. Here, also, the story goes the wrong way. The countries with the largest cuts in corporate tax rates had the smallest increase in their capital-to-labor ratios.
The implication of this simple analysis is that there is no reason to believe that cuts in the corporate tax rate will have any major impact on investment. It will simply mean more money in the pockets of shareholders, with little if any gain for ordinary workers. The moral here is that workers best not go out and spend their promised $4,000 tax cut dividend just yet.