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Posts Tagged ‘Americans for Tax Reform’

I am sometimes at a loss for words to describe the stupidity of the Republican Party.

Let’s use an analogy to explain what I mean. Imagine you were playing a game of chess and your opponent openly stated that he wanted you to move your rook to a certain point on the board.

If your IQ was above room temperature, you would probably be suspicious that he wasn’t trying to help you win the game.

Well, the same thing happens in fiscal policy. I quoted the Hill newspaper last year when some Democrats admitted that their top political goal was to seduce the GOP into a tax increase.

Now we have more evidence.

The Democrats’ counter-strategy is a bit more subtle, but has essentially been to find ways to make it very uncomfortable for Republicans to maintain such a rigid anti-tax orthodoxy — to ultimately force Republicans to break their anti-tax pledges and badly splinter their party. That’s what the Buffett Rule is about; that why Dems insist they won’t dismantle the so-called “sequester” — big cuts to defense and even to Medicare — unless Republicans agree to tackle deficits in a balanced way, i.e. by supporting significant new tax revenues. The results have been mixed. They’ve won a small number of GOP votes here and there, and vulnerable members are nowadays more likely to trash or dismiss Grover Norquist in the press than they were last year. But at a very high level within the Democratic Party, there’s a recognition that breaking the GOP on taxes is an absolutely crucial strategic imperative for defending safety net programs over the long term.

That’s a pretty clear statement. We have folks on the left who say they want higher taxes both to prop up big government and to cause internal damage to the GOP.

So we’re now left with a rather strange puzzle. Why would any Republicans (most recently Sen. Lindsey Graham and Jeb Bush) want to help the Democrats achieve those goals?!?

Unless, of course, they’re motivated by a belief in bigger government (high likely) or a suicidal desire to harm their own electoral prospects (highly unlikely since even I don’t think GOPers are that stupid).

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Tomorrow, August 12, will be a wonderful day. Based on calculations from Americans for Tax Reform, we will have finally worked long enough to finance the total cost of government for 2011. This means the money we earn for the rest of the year will be for the benefit of our families – rather than for the clowns in Washington.

Of course, we actually pay for excessive government throughout the entire year, in the form of tax withholding, slower growth, diminished wages, and misallocated resources, but ATR’s “Cost of Government Day” is a helpful way of monitoring the total burden of taxes, spending, regulation, and intervention.

And the Cost of Government Day data also allows us to see whether the burden of government is rising or falling. Not surprisingly, the Bush-Obama years have been very bad news for the American people. As you can see in the chart, we now work an extra 40-plus days to support  the parasite class in DC.

I have not dug into the numbers and reviewed the methodology, so it’s possible that I might do things differently, but it certainly looks like ATR has been very honest and straightforward. As I mentioned in a previous post, any estimate that shows more freedom and/or less government during the Bush years must be flawed – perhaps deliberately.

But the ATR numbers correctly show a rising cost of government during the Bush years. And they show a falling burden of government during the Clinton years.

So kudos to ATR for a good and honest report.

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Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana has triggered a spat among policy wonks with his recent comments expressing sympathy for a value-added tax (VAT). Kevin Williamson of National Review is arguing that a VAT will probably be necessary because there is no hope of restraining spending. Ryan Ellis of Americans for Tax Reform jumped on Williamson for his “apostasy,” arguing that a VAT would be bad news for taxpayers. From a policy perspective, I’m very much against a VAT because it will finance bigger government, as explained in this video.

That being said, Kevin Williamson makes a good point when he says that some supply-siders have neglected the spending side of the fiscal ledger. And it certainly is true that Republicans don’t seem very interested in curtailing the growth of government. But does this mean, as Williamson argues, but that our choices are limited to 1) a 36 percent spending cut, 2) catastrophic deficits and debt, or 3) a European-style value-added tax.

I actually think it would be a great idea to reduce the budget by 36 percent. That would bring the burden of federal spending back down to where it was in 2003. Notwithstanding the screams from various interest groups that this would generate, nobody was starving in the streets when the budget was $2.3 trillion rather than today’s $3.5 trillion. But Kevin is unfortunately correct in noting that this type of fiscal reform won’t happen.

Kevin is wrong, however, in saying that we therefore have to choose between either Greek-style deficits or a VAT. According to the Congressional Budget Office, tax revenues over the next 10 years will increase by an average of about 7.3 percent each year – and that’s assuming the tax cuts are made permanent and the AMT is adjusted for inflation. Reducing red ink simply requires that politicians exercise a tiny bit of restraint so that spending grows by a lesser amount. This video walks through the numbers and shows how quickly the budget could be balanced with varying levels of spending discipline.

By the way, it’s worth pointing out that the VAT has not prevented gigantic deficits in nations such as Greece, Japan, Ireland, Spain, England, etc, etc. Politicians in those nations implemented VATs, usually with promises that the money would be used to reduce other taxes and/or lower red ink, but all that happened was more spending and bigger government (this cartoon makes the point in a rather amusing fashion). In other words, Milton Friedman was right when he wrote that, “In the long run government will spend whatever the tax system will raise, plus as much more as it can get away with.”

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