Part of the tax plan President Donald Trump unveiled this week includes giving companies breaks on profits earned overseas, an idea that has provided little economic benefit in previous attempts.
The move would allow corporations to bring those earnings back home at a sharply reduced rate.
A similar effort more than a decade ago provided a nice windfall for firms, which then passed along most of it to shareholders in the form of share buybacks and dividends. The effort provided little in the way of hiring and in fact saw some of the beneficiaries actually cut payrolls.
However, Trump promised on Wednesday that the repatriation of overseas cash under his administration would yield benefits.
"By making it less punitive for companies to bring back this money, and by making the process far less bureaucratic and difficult, we can return trillions and trillions of dollars to our economy and spur billions of dollars in new investments in our struggling communities and throughout our nation," he said in a Missouri. "It's time to invest in our country, to rebuild our communities, and to hire our great American workers."
To start with, Trump's estimate is considerably higher than that of any economists who have studied the issue. The president put the figure of profits stored abroad at "anywhere from $3 trillion to $5 trillion." Economists generally put the number closer to $2.5 trillion.
Then there's the issue of what happens to that money. When then-President George W. Bush tried the idea in 2004, the results provided little economic boost.