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Archive for March 1st, 2010

I begin by saying I’m almost speechless about this latest scheme to waste money, but I manage to rant and rave against Obama’s latest payoff for the union bosses.

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A former reporter for the New York Times, Fox Butterfield, became a bit of a laughingstock in the 1990s for publishing a series of articles addressing the supposed quandary of how crime rates could be falling during periods when prison populations were expanding. A number of critics sarcastically explained that crimes rates were falling because bad guys were behind bars and invented the term “Butterfield Effect” to describe the failure of leftists to put 2 + 2 together. We now have a version of the Butterfiled Effect in tax policy. Recent IRS data show that rich people earned a record amount of income in 2007 and also faced their lowest effective tax rate in almost two decades. Proponents of soak-the-rich tax policy complain about these developments, as seen in the Bloomberg excerpt below, but they seem oblivious to the Laffer Curve insight that rich people earned more income in part because tax rates were lower. So if they penalize the rich with higher tax rates, as President Obama is proposing, they will be disappointed to discover that they collect considerably less revenue than predicted for the simple reason that wealthy taxpayers will respond by earning less taxable income.

The 400 highest-earning U.S. households reported an average of $345 million in income in 2007, up 31 percent from a year earlier, IRS statistics show. The average tax rate for the households fell to the lowest in almost 20 years. …The statistics underscore “two long-term trends: that income at the very top has exploded and their taxes have been cut dramatically,” said Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based research group that supports increasing taxes on high-income individuals.

As an aside, it’s also worth noting that the IRS tax-rate numbers are very misleading. The tax burden on the rich has dropped largely because of lower tax rates on dividends and capital gains. But when the IRS says upper-income taxpayers had an average tax rate of 16.6 percent, this does not include the other layers of tax that are imposed. The corporate income tax is 35 percent (just counting the federal level), for instance, so the actual average tax rate on these forms of income is far higher. Double taxation is counterproductive to growth and competitiveness, though, which is why the correct tax rate on dividends and capital gains is zero. For more on the Laffer Curve, this three-part video series addresses theory, evidence, and the biased revenue-estimating process.

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The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador (akin to a state governor in the U.S.) defended his decision to get surgery in America with the statement that it was “my heart, my choice, and my health.” This is an admirably libertarian statement, and the “my choice, and my health” part could be the rallying cry for those of us who don’t want government-run healthcare. The only problem is that the Premier is a reprehensible hypocrite who wants to keep Canadian citizens trapped in a statist system even though he was able to escape the system using his personal wealth. To add insult to injury, he is going to try and get taxpayers to reimburse him for his US-based treatment:

An unapologetic Danny Williams says he was aware his trip to the United States for heart surgery earlier this month would spark outcry, but he concluded his personal health trumped any public fallout over the controversial decision. …”This was my heart, my choice and my health,” Williams said late Monday from his condominium in Sarasota, Fla. “I did not sign away my right to get the best possible health care for myself when I entered politics.” …Williams said he didn’t announce his departure south of the border because he didn’t want to create “a media gong show,” but added that criticism would’ve followed him had he chose to have surgery in Canada. “I would’ve been criticized if I had stayed in Canada and had been perceived as jumping a line or a wait list. … I accept that. That’s public life,” he said. …Williams said his decision to go to the U.S. did not reflect any lack of faith in his own province’s health care system. …Williams also said he paid for the treatment, but added he would seek any refunds he would be eligible for in Canada. “If I’m entitled to any reimbursement from any Canadian health care system or any provincial health care system, then obviously I will apply for that as anybody else would,” he said.

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