Friday Bonus: What is “Stimulus Spending?”

 
I stumbled into an interesting discussion on Facebook yesterday, and didn’t have room to express my opinion there, so I thought I’d do it here.  It’s about the economy, which has been my only real hobby for the past several years.

And hey, the economy is numbers-related so it’s not entirely off topic for this blog right? Smile

Nobel Economist Paul Krugman Wants More “Stimulus Spending”

http://rpmedia.ask.com/ts?u=/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/48/Paul_Krugman-press_conference_Dec_07th%2C_2008-8.jpg/97px-Paul_Krugman-press_conference_Dec_07th%2C_2008-8.jpg

Stimulus spending is generally Mr. Krugman’s preferred fix for the US (and world) economy.  Lately, he hasn’t been getting enough of it so he is on tour these days demanding more.

What exactly IS stimulus spending?  Fundamentally it means “the government spends or gives away money.”  The idea is that by injecting new money into the economy, it can kickstart a benevolent cycle that sustains itself:

 

  1. The people or businesses who receive the stimulus cash now have more money to spend on other things.
  2. As THEY spend their newfound money, other businesses have to hire more people to fill the demand.
  3. Those newly-employed workers now have more money to spend, and may even end up buying from the people who received the stimulus in step one.

Where Does the Government Get the Stimulus Cash?

It’s hard to argue with a fresh injection of money into the economy, and I highly recommend that the government should let ME play a big role in step #1 above.  I am a willing conduit for your good works Paul, and honestly, the bigger the check the better.  I can do a lot more good for the economy with, say, $100k than I can with $1k.  I promise I will spend every penny in short order, no hoarding. 

But as a society we really do need to ask where the money comes from in order to feel good about it.  By my accounting, it can only come from a handful of places:

  1. Money that the government has saved
  2. Money that the government refunds directly to businesses and taxpayers via tax credits, rebates, or cuts
  3. Money raised by new taxes
  4. Money that the government just flat-out prints
  5. Money that is borrowed:
    1. From other governments
    2. From private corporations
    3. From banks, mutual funds, etc.
    4. From private investors
    5. From our own Federal Reserve

#1 kinda makes you laugh doesn’t it?  Governments with saved money?  Har har.  Certainly not the US government.  Does ANY government have money saved up?  Assets exceeding liabilities?  I need an accountant!  Where’s David Churchward?

Anyway let’s take a look at the other sources.

#2 – Tax Refunds/Credits/Cuts

Again, allow me to be first to volunteer to have some of my tax dollars returned to me, and the more the better.

Jokes aside, this isn’t such a bad idea in general, but it has consequences.  By taking in less money, the government now has less to spend on other things.  And reduced spending on other things is really just REDUCING stimulus in other places – if they lay off federal workers for instance, or buy less Predator drones, the federal workers or the defense firms will have less money to spend into the economy, and we’re back where we started.

Tax refunds really just transfer “stimulus” from one place to another.  So by itself, this one is no help.

#3 – New Taxes

Take more money out of the economy by raising taxes and then distribute it as stimulus = just another way of moving money around.  Anti-stimulus one place, stimulus in another.  Yields no net gain in stimulus.

#4 – Newly Printed Money

Now we’re getting somewhere.  If we’re going to have some real economic kickstart without just moving money from one place to another, conjuring new money out of thin air is a pretty good way to source it.  And the government, with the cooperation of the Federal Reserve, can do just that.

They’ve done a sizable amount of it lately, too.  They don’t call it money printing though, they call it “Quantitative Easing.”  (There’s a really funny video here too).

There are definitely real “ripple effects” from money printing that are not so good:

  1. If they increase the money supply by 10%, that reduces the purchasing power of the dollar by 10%, because supply and demand applies to dollars too, and prices of goods rise by 10% on average in response to more dollars in existence
  2. In other words, your dollars in the bank are now worth 10% less
  3. Similarly, the wages you receive from your job (or Social Security) are worth 10% less
  4. Even your investments (stocks, mutual funds, etc.) are worth less, unless they too appreciate by 10% as the money supply expands (which, actually, is reasonably likely)
  5. This is called inflation

So money printing is really just another form of taxation.  It’s just a lot harder to connect the dots though, it’s a lot stealthier.  Gasoline prices are higher?  Blame the oil companies.  Blame speculators.  Just don’t blame the government’s stimulus packages ok?

Side Note:  “Reverse Robin Hood”

imageKrugman’s book and blog are named “Conscience of a Liberal.”  Some of his Nobel-winning work focused on rebuilding Haiti.  He talks a lot about egalitarian redistribution of wealth to the average citizen.  I don’t doubt that he’s sincerely trying to help people.

(And I, by the way, have no political affiliation – I don’t have a team that I root for, I actually think both of our teams here in the US are doing an equally awful job.)

So I wonder how he “squares” his egalitarian goals with these two facts:

1) Wealthier citizens have a much easier time shielding themselves from inflation

More sophisticated investors always do a better job outpacing inflation than the average citizen.  So the average citizen bears a disproportionate share of the “costs” of money printing.  The rich get richer, while both the poor AND the middle class get poorer.

2) Newly-printed money tends to enter the economy through the financial system

It’s a long story, but most newly-printed money goes to Wall Street before it goes anywhere else.

So again, money printing benefits the richest segment of society disproportionately – sure, their dollars are worth 10% less just like us, but their well-placed investments mitigate that, AND they receive the new money first.  So their net wealth, in dollars, increases by more than 10%, and they actually come out ahead.

The rest of us pay the bill.  This is so plain to me after a few years of reading that I wonder how it escapes him.  Or maybe I am missing something crucial.

#5 – Borrowed Money

Here’s another way to “create” new money without just moving it around.  Borrow it from someone else.

But actually that doesn’t create money either.  It’s another transfer.  In order to lend money to the government, I have to have excess money lying around.  I COULD use that money to just buy goods and services, and that would have the stimulating effect that Krugman desires.

But instead, I loan it to the government (you hear about this all the time – it’s called “buying Treasuries” or “buying T-bills”) so THEY can take care of the stimulus distribution.  It’s just another transfer within the system, no net gain in stimulus.

But there’s a catch:  it’s a loan, with interest, and the government then owes me back more money than I gave them.  Eek.

Even better:  the people lending the most money to the government again tend to be the wealthiest individuals and institutions.  So not only is borrowed money a “net zero” transfer within the system, it again disproportionately enriches the already rich.

Borrowing from other countries is a good trick in the sense that it is NOT a transfer within the system – money IS coming in from outside the system if it’s coming from China, as long as you view the US as a relatively closed system (which is at least partly true).

But since we have to pay it all back, with interest, we’re really borrowing from our own future.

Of course, there’s always the chance that we will NOT pay it back, as driven home by yet another hilarious video.  Then it truly is a Good Deal… for us.

“Hey Rob, you got a problem with the rich?”

Hell no.  I’ve been working harder these past couple of years than ever before in my career, and it’s not just because I enjoy it.  There are incentives for building a business from scratch like we are doing, if we are successful.

I actually think the whole “99% versus 1%” thing is quite misplaced.  We should all be striving to BE the 1% – I’m not there yet, and maybe never will be, but I sure won’t feel guilty for trying.  The things we do at Pivotstream are quite productive and helpful to our customers.  It’s easy for me to trace our benefit to those around us, and if we stopped benefiting them, that would be a bad sign for our business, as it should be.

I think a better framing of the battle lines would be the “99.99% versus the 0.01%,” or actually more accurately, “earned income versus unearned income.”

Look, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs changed the world emphatically.  They truly earned their billions.

Similarly, I think “real” investors like venture capitalists also earn their money, as covered in my Thanksgiving post from two years back.

But money that is made purely in financial markets isn’t earned in the same way as money earned via those other methods.  Financial market activity is a necessary lubricant, but then again so is the legal profession.  If we woke up one day and found that the legal profession was nearly 15% of our economy, as is the case with Wall Street, we’d immediately understand that something was wrong.

And even better:  unearned income is taxed at a much lower rate than earned income.  Sometimes it’s not taxed at all.  Warren Buffet paying less taxes than his secretary is a sign of a diseased system, one that incents the wrong things (creation and defense of wealth without proportionate benefit to society).

What’s wrong with a loan, really?

Businesses take loans all the time to get off the ground, or to expand operations in some significant manner.  And society DOES benefit from that real growth.

So is it the same thing for the government to do that?  Yes and no, is my answer.  No because governments don’t typically allocate investment as effectively as the private sector, but yes because if they DO invest properly, sometimes the benefits can even be GREATER than if the private sector did it.

Common infrastructure like the interstate system for instance is not something the private sector ever would (or could) have built.  Investments like that enable the private sector to then do things that never would have been possible before.

There certainly is a need for renewed investment in our infrastructure in the US (alternative energy and transportation come to mind, as well as improvements in education and job training).  Have you noticed any big projects on the scale of mid-twentieth century investments like the interstate system or the space program?  Yeah me either.

The other problem with loans:  exponentially-growing debt

If you borrow from time to time in order to expand your company, and then the new productive capacity of your company lets you pay off that debt, great.

But if you start to use debt in an endless cycle, and you become dependent on it all the time, it will crush you.

Check out our US government debt:

image

It took over 200 years to amass our first $6T in debt, then about 8 years to amass the second $6T, and we’re on pace to continue.

My question to Krugman on debt, then, is “if this isn’t enough debt, how much IS?  Would another $1T in loans and stimulus save us where the last six to ten TRILLION has not?”

“Follow the goods and services, not the money”

I think this is the most useful thing I have ever heard from an economist, but it wasn’t Krugman (I forget who, it was years ago).  We get too distracted by money, which is really just a medium for exchange, a lubricant, for REAL economic activity.  Real activity is all that truly matters, because money is worthless paper if you don’t exchange it for something real.

Take the example above:  stimulus spent on infrastructure can enable further productive activity that was impossible before.  Productive investments like that increase the size of the overall pie.

By contrast, stimulus money that ultimately gets spent on new clothes, or a hardwood floor, or sports tickets, is just re-allocation of “wealth” within a pie of a fixed size.

It’s the same with the earned/unearned income thing.  Earned income is productive, unearned income is largely the art of siphoning wealth from the productive.

“But Krugman Has a Nobel in Economics, Rob Has a Tech Blog”

Fair point.  I feel a bit weird about saying that this dude doesn’t know what he’s doing.  But I really think he doesn’t.  So why do I think someone that smart and that decorated can be so wrong?

Too Much Greek in the Math, Too Much Ivory in the Tower

If you crack open one of Krugman’s papers you are bound to see stuff like this:

image

Hey that’s fancy.  This is a big part of the world he lives in – that paper is half equations.  Go check his wikipedia entry – the man has never left academia.  On matters of the economy, why we would ever listen to someone who has never “tasted” anything to do with real business, but instead wraps himself in equations all day long, is beyond me.

It’s ironic for me, former Calculus Team captain in high school and proud owner of a number-crunching career, to make fun of someone for loving them some equations.  I debated grad school for awhile and almost went – if so, today I might be a lot like Krugman (only less decorated than he, and many times more bitter toward him).

But in my real-world experience with any form of complex system, the more “advanced” your equations become, and the less tempered they are by tangible experience, the more they diverge from reality.  If we were interviewing him for the job of economic adviser, his ability to wow us with equations wouldn’t be enough.  We’d want real answers to the sorts of questions above.  And given that his Nobel was awarded by a committee who similarly has lived in “isolated equation land” their entire lives, you start to realize that this could very well be a subculture that is completely alienated from anything real, and simply rewarding one of their own.

Too Little Friction in the Physics

You see the part in the image above where he says “this can’t happen, so..”

image

The paper is littered with stuff like that too.  That, and “taking as a given,” and “obviously,” and other ways to describe critical assumptions.  Papers like these are built on pyramids of those, and if any one of those assumptions proves to be untrue, even for a very brief period of time, it can all crumble down quickly.

It reminds me of high school physics, where half of the problems we had to solve started with “assume friction is zero” or “assume air resistance is negligible” or my personal favorite, “an object is moving through a vacuum…’

Great way to learn the theory, but you eventually have to deal with the dirty, noisy, friction-equipped real world.

11 Responses to Friday Bonus: What is “Stimulus Spending?”

  1. Tom Rupsis says:

    Rob proves the old adage that common sense is neither common nor sensible. There are Nobels lying in wait for people that come up with better models for how the economy works. But economists of all stripes (real economists, not the political hacks at think tanks) accept monetary and fiscal policies as valid methods of stimulating an economy. The debate in the economics world is on the relative effectiveness under differing scenarios. And you’d be hard pressed to find an economist (again, a legit one) that says we shouldn’t be borrowing like crazy now for things like infrastructure, education, etc. when the cost of borrowing is near or even below zero and we’ve pushed so far using strictly monetary policy.

    • powerpivotpro says:

      Hi Tom, good to see you around here again. I’m going to reply to you and Buzz at once.

      I’m no fan of the dominant position that sound-bite “commonsense” has assumed in basically every aspect of our lives. In fact I don’t think you’ll find a more vehement “hater” of that trend than me. Our desire to over-simplify things is something to resist, not embrace. Anti-intellectualism is very dangerous. Ever read Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World?”

      I don’t think there’s anything simple or sound-bitish about my post though. “Deconstructing” and explaining complex things is hard work too, and is valuable.

      Even the crazy equations of quantum mechanics, nuclear physics, etc. can be “squared” with tangible reality. In fact that’s how science works – you rigorously test theories against observed results. The trouble with economics of course is that you really can’t run experiments – if we could play out the next 20 years listening to Krugman versus listening to someone else, we’d be much better off, and I might even come to be a fan of his school of thought. But we can’t, and economics is a much less objective school of study as a consequence. Cloaking oneself in big equations looks good, feels good, and sounds good, but if you can’t test them, and you can’t test your assumptions except through readings of history (which are inherently subjective), we have to acknowledge that those equations just might not mean very much.

      As scientific minds, of which I definitely count myself, we actually have a duty to hold economists to a very strict criticism. They are, after all, even more influential than most of the more objective sciences. They don’t get a free pass on criticism, they get a triple dose.

      I’ll turn it back around to you, then, and agree that disparaging the intellectuals is very dangerous. Do you agree that it’s just as dangerous to attack people who question the “acknowledged thought leaders?” Because that is the other side of the coin.

      Tom you used words like “real” and “legit” to describe the economists that you put faith in. Those are very slippery words. Who decides who is legit? I agree that political think tanks are not a reliable source, but who decides whether Krugman or someone like Hugh Hendry is more legit? In the case of the Nobel prize, it’s Krugman’s kind of people passing judgment, so it’s a self-reinforcing school of thought. And there is nothing scientific about that.

      When science starts to trend toward a religion it is getting away from its roots. Science is built on constant, repeated, merciless questioning of commonly-held beliefs. Sometimes, what looks like anti-intellectualism is something very different. I think that if we spent a few hours together you’d find that I’m not what you think I am.

      Borrowing – did you see the part where I said I think we need BIG investments in our infrastructure? I wouldn’t mind borrowing for that. But so far I’ve seen no sign of it. I’ve seen housing credits (we have plenty of housing stock) and I’ve seen massive bailout of the financial industry’s bad bets (incenting further bad behavior). None of that is the sort of revolutionary investment that it’s worth borrowing for. Gimme something that enables future productivity growth and I’m all-in. And let’s not forget that low interest rates are at least partly artificial, and those same low rates are in themselves a form of money printing – inflation that hurts the average person.

      Lastly for Buzz – don’t be silly, the drugs we take are rigorously tested to be the most *profitable* for their manufacturers. (That’s mostly a joke, but to the extent that it’s true, it is NOT a good thing.)

      • Tom Rupsis says:

        Hi Rob – Typing on a tablet so will keep this to a few short points. (1) Yes, it’s good to question the so-called experts. Might want to stick to areas where the theory is a little less solid though. Questioning basic macroeconomic theory like you’ve done here is akin to questioning evolution in biology. (2) I consider an economist “legit” when they start with the evidence and then develop the theory. The wrong approach is to start with the theory and then fit the evidence to support it (I.e., the think tank model). There are economists with integrity of all political persuasions so I by no means consider only the Krugmans of the world “legit”. (3) Economists can and do run experiments all the time. It’s easier done in micro, but we’ve got a very interesting experiment going on right now when we look at the comparative performance of countries like the UK that have focused on “austerity measures” vs countries like the US that have used fiscal and monetary policy in expansionary ways. (4) I certainly don’t mean to question your own integrity or intelligence. You’re one of the smartest and most intellectually curious folks I’ve ever known. I apologize that my original comment implied otherwise.

        • powerpivotpro says:

          Thanks Tom. I’m just not the sort of person to take things on faith. I put more stock in evolutionary theory than I do in macro-econ because I think the evidence is better, and less noisy.

          For instance, I think there is one important external factor that makes stimulus spending by the US, and even outright money printing by the US, very different from other countries doing the same: we currently own the world’s reserve currency. That was too much to go into in my original post, but when we “stimulate,” we get to keep most of the benefits at home while exporting the downsides overseas. Do Krugman’s models take that into account? We currently are the only country with that “privilege,” so I question the value of an experiment that compares US with UK.

          To be clear, I’m no advocate of austerity either. I’ve come to the belief that worldwide we have created an enormous debt bubble, both public and private, that is a multiple of the world’s GDP. It’s very unlikely that will ever be paid off in any conventional fashion, so what we are witnessing now, politically, is a huge game of “pass the hot potato” – who gets stuck “eating” this unpayable bill – the creditors, the debtors, or some third party?

          I believe Krugman’s answer is “none of the above – we’ll grow out of it.” I’m skeptical of that, given that we need an exponential rise in productivity in order to achieve it. We need a major new breakthrough in energy (like when we discovered oil) or efficiency (like the PC or the Internet) in order to deliver the require growth, which would require a very wise and concentrated investment rather than just blanket “stimulus.” So far we’re just seeing politically-motivated handouts to one constituency or another (or campaign donor), and no that won’t change if Romney replaces Obama.

          In short I think Krugman’s equations would need to be a lot MORE complex, not less, in order to properly match reality. Accounting for reserve currency status, nature of stimulus investment, and ROI of that stimulus – these are all things that must be incorporated. In the meantime I think there are a number of serious questions/objections in my post, and my sense is that Krugman’s reply would be something like “bah, you just don’t get it” which is the sort of answer I used to give all the time, but have learned over the years was just me being intellectually lazy and dogmatic. He’s got a big brain and would do just fine if he climbed down from the tower and fashioned some models that hybridized the “dirty” world with the “clean.” And I would value his contributions a lot more than I do when he writes blog posts like that one this week where he basically makes fun of people who “just don’t get it” and basically asks everyone to defer to those who know better. Those are serious warning signs, in my experience, of someone who is trying to make things simpler than they are (a future blog post on some examples is in order, just generally an interesting topic). He is under-utilizing his considerable gifts IMO, and I’d like him to engage more directly with the “uninitiated simpletons” like me.

  2. nexus stone says:

    I’m with YOU…

    Imo, Krugman is OFF-THE-WALL — & is a ‘pied piper’ leading us to(ward) (MORE) ‘DISASTER’…

    GOOD comments / ‘treatise’…

  3. Buzz Burhans says:

    I won’t comment on your economic theory, but as a regular reader of Krugman, he pretty much always provides data to support and demonstrate his ideas. With the exception of the graphic of US debt, there is no data here to support your presumptions. Krugman has acknowledged that getting debt under control is important and needs to be addressed. However, he makes a convincing case that the current rage to austerity has had the effect of exacerbating the European economic situation. Go back through his blog postings at NYT and you will see many data-based contributions of evidence for his position. Sort of like when your house is on fire you better get the fire out and leave the renovation you’d like to do until you’re not in crisis mode.

    More concerning to me is that otherwise apparently reasonable people such as yourself choose to disparage education and complexity as being too much “theory” and not reflective of real world. You and I can agree that the real world is “dirty, noisy, friction-equipped” as you say. But those who are serious students of it (whether economics, physics, medicine, or whatever part one chooses to specialize in) soon appreciate that the real world is full of complex systems, and it is often necessary to describe / articulate elements of it using more complex “models” and descriptions. It is disappointing, and counterproductive to the common good, when people belittle education or science, whether it is physics or economics or whatever.

    To bring this back to the tools and practice of people who’s career’s are spent doing BI, your denigration of Krugman because he uses sophisticated equations (to represent sophisticated and complex realities) reflects a preference for oversimplification and substitution of impressions for more depthful analyses. This bias against depthful analysis seems prevalent in BI. I really appreciate the new generation of improved BI visualization tools. However,as a scientist who is also trained in statistics, I find that in much BI there is way to much interest in pretty visuals that convey impressions about relationships, and far too little appreciation of the need to also more rigorously examine the data itself. Note I said “also have”, not “have instead” – both levels of assessment and communication are useful. BI visuals can facilitate seeing an association, but can not determine the nature of the association – is it causal? is it spurious? To answer these kinds of questions, one needs more sophisticated tools sometimes. For instance, I don’t want the MD who prescribes medicine for me to have made his recommendation based only on pretty visuals supplied by the drug company, I want such recommendations to be made based on more rigorous examination of the underlying data using epidemiological tools. This level of sophistication and analysis, however, requires more skills than applying “common sense” to our impressions and observations, and that skill level usually requires advanced training.

    I wish you and PivotStream much success, and that you make it to the 1% you aspire to. But I hope that you will not find it necessary to denigrate complexity, science, and education to do it. We need successful people who are well informed and appreciate knowledge, science in all its forms, and education, and do not denigrate those who practice them. It is possible to disagree with someones opinion without disparaging them.

  4. Buzz Burhans says:

    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/05/the-incredulity-problem/

    Funny, Krugman’s blog this morning is addressing some similar things as I did in my earlier comment on this column.

    • Ted says:

      Buzz, this is typical Krugman disparaging anyone who disagrees with his philosophy (cannot bring myself to say theory) with projection and false premises. But regardless of whether one agrees with Krugman’s cure for the economy, things he proposes for fixes are self-evidently wrong. Taking from the productive activity and giving to anyone else is wrong, regardless of the apparent benefit to the economy (which is empirically little anyway).

  5. David Hager says:

    There is nothing inherently wrong with generating debt for important economic use. However, there appears to be no constraints on those entitites that are making the decisions on how to spend the money. Thus, it can be wasted. Also, the possible impact of the creditor is not being considered here. If there is a good relationship with your creditor, paying off your debt is normally not a problem. However, if your creditor decides to “put their thumb down on you”, your debt suddenly becomes a big problem. Neither of these issues are handled by the equations that Krugman uses for economic theory. Thus, the effectiveness of simulus spending to boost the economy can turn to be minimal or even counterproductive.

  6. Jiri says:

    The system is broken (aka capitalism) – MAXIMIZING (short-term) profit – US MONEY culture is destroying EARTH. Krugman is trying to solve problems within the system that is bankrupt.
    Read Stiglitz – USA is spending about $1.3 trillion on militarism – with $1.3 trillion deficit. Iraq war costs US over $3 trillion.
    1% control monetary system – but also politics – aka MONEY buys politicians.
    We criticize the Greece with $35K/capita governmental debt – US per capita governmental debt is $45K.
    UK is in recession again – US will be after the election circus and media propaganda.
    And it is scary to find 1% billionaires like Gates creating mosquitoes that are genetically modified with a gene designed to kill them “solving” malaria ..
    uneducated rich dropout messing ecosystem.
    Some person with bachelor degree in biology should tell BillG that mosquito are also pollinators – lie honey bee – that I did not see on my cherrie tree last 3 years … cause herbicides and pesticides driven agriculture.

  7. Dave says:

    Hi Rob – you should follow some more common sense economists like

    – Greg Mankiw http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/
    – Scott Sumner http://www.themoneyillusion.com/
    – Tyler Cowen http://marginalrevolution.com/

    Quick facts:

    - the top one percent of tax payers contribute more tax revenue than the bottom 95% combined (average tax rate is 27%)

    - 47% of US households pay no (that’s zero) federal income tax (average tax rate is zero percent)

    - Our system of taxation is highly progressive implying wealth redistribution

    - the “Buffett Rule” is misleading. As you know, some rich people like Warren Buffett receive most of their income via dividends and capital gains and these sources of income are taxed at 15% (personal rate). So, one might think these rich people are paying a lower tax rate than people who’s income is derived mostly from wages. But we can’t forget the taxes we pay are not just the sum of the checks we write to the government. Some of the taxes we pay are indirect ind not in plain sight of the public eye. People like Buffett derive their income from dividends and capital gains because they have ownership stake in various corporations. We must not forget that corporations pay taxes too. As corporations are owned by people, when you tax corporations, you tax people. So, Buffetts total tax burden is closer to 45%.

    Example: Suppose you own the only share in powerpivotpro corp (ticker: “PPP”). Suppose this corporation earned $100 in fy 2011. First, the government takes its 35% leaving $65 to the corporation (the owners of the corp). Now, the board of PPP decides it does not need the cash and decides to give the remaining $65 to its shareholder (a dividend). As the shareholder gets his $65, the government taxes this transfer at 15% ($9.75) leaving the shareholder with $55.25. In total, the government collected nearly $45. That turns out to be a 45% tax rate

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