California Dreamin': Tax Scholarship in a Time of Fiscal Crisis

14 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2014 Last revised: 15 Dec 2014

Joseph Bankman

Stanford Law School

Paul L. Caron

Pepperdine University - School of Law

Date Written: November 3, 2014

Abstract

This essay makes three claims about the current state of tax law and academic tax scholarship in America: (1) the federal budget imbalance, caused by the failure of both political parties to raise the tax revenues needed to fund the nation’s spending priorities, is unsustainable and threatens our nation’s future; (2) tax scholars need to shift our focus from technocratic work to systemic solutions to the existential threat posed by this fiscal gap; and (3) California’s response to its seemingly intractable budget problems provides a template for resolving the federal budget stalemate in Washington, D.C.

Two years ago, both California and the nation were imperiled by long-term, structural, budget imbalances. California has reduced that peril by raising (already high) personal tax rates on the wealthy. The political success of that approach suggests that at the national level, Americans might be willing to support higher rates to maintain government services and move toward fiscal solvency.

The fiscal crisis highlights a problem with the dominant conception of legal tax scholarship. Under that conception, scholarship is (or should be) apolitical and confined to subjects about which the writer can demonstrate mastery. Unfortunately, the most pressing problem in the field is inescapably political and requires the scholar to address some issues about which no one can master. If we hew to a restrictive definition of scholarship, we limit our voice on a subject about which we have much to say.

Keywords: Tax Reform, Income Tax, Budget, Scholarship

JEL Classification: H20, K34

Suggested Citation

Bankman, Joseph and Caron, Paul L., California Dreamin': Tax Scholarship in a Time of Fiscal Crisis (November 3, 2014). UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 48, p. 405, 2014; Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 2518607; Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014/31. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2518607

Joseph Bankman

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States
650-725-3825 (Phone)
650-725-7663 (Fax)

Paul L. Caron (Contact Author)

Pepperdine University - School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States
310.506.7521 (Phone)

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