First, a quiz…
Do you agree or disagree that…
- Congress should eliminate the mortgage tax deduction that lets homeowners get tax breaks on their mortgage interest payments?
- Congress should eliminate the corporate income tax?
- Congress should replace income and payroll taxes with a progressive consumption tax?
- Carbon emissions should be taxed?
- Marijuana should be legalized?
Unless you are an economist, if you agreed with any of the these statements, you are not typical.
Using two surveys, researchers from the University of Chicago’s Booth School and Northwestern compared the opinions of typical Americans to what economists believe. The results? Not only do the two groups minimally agree, but the larger the economists’ consensus, the less everyone else seems to think they are right. And, told that economic experts disagreed with their conclusions, the average American group barely budged.
In the following table, representing economic opinion, EEP is for Economic Expert Panel while the “average American” expressed an opinion through the FTI, the Financial Trust Index. The numbers under “Agreement” are a percent indicating how much of the group agreed with a statement. Moving down the second column and comparing it to the fourth column, you can see at the bottom of the list that there was a 70 percent gap between how the economists and the rest of us feel about a carbon tax.
There is definitely a chasm between economists and everyone else.
Our Bottom Line: Economic Policy
The economists who wrote the paper on the gap between economic opinion and average Americans conclude by saying that they suspect economists answer survey questions differently from the rest of us. If, instead, they were providing policy advice to politicians, the answers would be very different.
Their conclusion concerned me.