As public attention to the Republican Party tax bill started to grow, the Penn Wharton Budget Model began making headlines as well. With groups on both sides of the aisle making claims as to how the bill will affect the economy, the non-partisan research organization has emerged as a valuable player.
The budget model study has been cited numerous times in media organizations, and has even been the subject of numerous articles, published in newspapers including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Politico.com, and The Hill.
The Penn Wharton Budget Model, comprised of Penn faculty members and economic analysts, published its latest tax policy study in December, where it concluded that although the tax cut would bring increase GDP, the national debt would increase. The budget model estimated that the national debt would rise between $1.9 and $2.2 trillion by 2027 and that the GDP growth attributed to the tax bill would ultimately diminish. It has also published several other reports throughout the ongoing public debate on the tax plan.
The tax bill contains sweeping reforms that result in lower taxes for most Americans, including the highest earners and large corporations, according to The New York Times. The bill also introduced an endowment gains tax for universities like Penn, which Penn President Amy Gutmann has strongly opposed.
“We were really pleased with the coverage that our work got over the course of the tax reform bill,” Managing Director of Legislation and Special Projects Kimberly Burham said.
While the budget model's estimates predict an unfavorable increase in national debt, the organization has a mission of substantiated its reports with claims based on data rather than ideology.
Instead, it is meant as a tool for politicians and businesspeople of varying party affiliations to use, Burham said.
“We want to be an honest broker of facts that people can trust,” Burham said. The budget model's expressly non-partisan nature is part of a strategy to "help people on both sides of the aisle know that they can have a place to go to get estimates they can believe,” she added.
“One of our great hopes is that they’re able to make decisions based on facts rather than ideology,” said Burham.
At Penn, the GOP tax bill prompted significant debate among political groups such as Penn Democrats and Penn College Republicans. Penn Dems argued that the bill disproportionately hurt the poor, while College Republicans claimed that it fosters economic growth and benefits all of society.
The Penn Wharton Budget Model's members aren't the only ones at Penn that anticipate a less than ideal performance by the tax bill. In an opinion piece for The Hill, Penn Law professor and Co-director of the Center for Tax Law and Policy, Chris Sanchirico, wrote that the bill “reads like it was written in a rush.”
Sanchirico argued that under the new tax code, companies like Apple could skirt by billions of dollars in taxes.
Burham said that the research team will monitor additional tax proposals in the future, as well as other federal policies — always with a nonpartisan lens.
“We plan to extend our analysis into other areas and update our analysis of social security as well,” said Burham. “I think it’s important to have a group out there that isn’t advocating for their own policies that’s producing trusted and data-based research.”