Thorndike explores the Keynesian conversion of Treasury Department tax-policy experts during the 1930s. At the beginning of the Great Depression, he narrates that there was no political interest in using tax cuts to promote economic recovery. In fact, in 1932 Congress responded to the economic emergency by enacting a tax increase in the name of fiscal responsibility. By 1937, however, Treasury experts had become persuaded of the merits of countercyclical taxation. Ironically, the first legislative experiment in Keynesian taxation took the form of a tax increase--the short-lived 1937 tax on undistributed corporate profits, intended to stimulate the economy by discouraging corporations from hoarding cash. He explains the use of income tax cuts as weapons in the countercyclical arsenal requires the existence of a tax imposed on the bulk of the population, and the income tax did not become a mass tax until World War II.
Joseph J. Thorndike,
The Fiscal Revolution and Taxation: The Rise of Compensatory Taxation, 1929-1938,
73 Law and Contemporary Problems
Available at: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/lcp/vol73/iss1/5