Archive for May 3rd, 2010

I normally like to avoid posts (either serious or funny) that are partisan, but this cartoon struck a chord. The supposedly conservative blue dog Democrats are some of the biggest frauds in Washington. Their idea of being fiscal hawks is supporting higher spending AND higher taxes. The only group that rivals the Blue Dogs for fraudulent behavior is…yes, you guessed it, Republicans. GOP Senators and Congressmen want us to praise them for voting against Obama’s wasteful agenda, but almost all of them supported similar policies when Bush was in the White House. Call me old fashioned, but I want people who put individual freedom first, not partisan identification.

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As expected, the European Union and International Monetary Fund have chosen to subsidize the profligacy of Greek politicians. A deal has just been announced. As the Washington Post reports:

Greece on Sunday announced a long-awaited deal with the European Union and International Monetary Fund for a $145 billion financial rescue, an unprecedented package… The three-year package is also the largest international rescue to be backed by the IMF. …The proposed cuts in Greece include a new round of reductions in salaries for state workers, more flexibility to fire them, an increase in the value-added tax from 21 percent to 23 percent, and higher taxes on fuel, tobacco and alcohol. More state-run industries are expected to be privatized, and military spending will be slashed.

I’m not terribly optimistic about the long-run consequences. I also can’t resist pointing out that the VAT has jumped from 19 percent to 21 percent to 23 percent during this crisis, which underscores how easy it is for politicians to use the tax as a bottomless ATM machine. My Cato colleague Jeff Miron shares my pessimism, writing in Forbes that:

A bailout will not address the fundamental causes of Greece’s fiscal problems. Greece has an expansive but highly inefficient civil service and an economy stifled by regulation, favoritism and rent-seeking. These policies have generated double-digit deficits and a debt-to-GDP ratio well over 100%. The situation is not even close to sustainable, so absent a bailout Greece will default on its debts. A bailout, however, does nothing to fix the misguided policies that have generated Greece’s existing debt and ongoing deficits. Bailout therefore merely postpones the day of reckoning. Worse, bailout both rewards Greece’s bad past behavior and encourages such behavior in future. Greece will never change its misguided policies if the E.U. and IMF infuse it with new cash, just as no teenager who has overspent an allowance will reform if the parents merely expand that allowance. …The negatives do not end with the current bailout. Greece will be back for additional bailouts in short order, since under a bailout it will not fix its underlying problems. And once the EU and IMF have bailed out Greece, they will find it impossible to resist bailouts for Portugal or Spain. As the recent downgrading of these countries’ bonds suggests, they (perhaps along with Italy and Ireland) are also at risk of default in the near future. …Rather than bail out Greece, therefore, the E.U. and IMF should allow it to default. This will hurt Greece’s creditors, but those entities assumed the risk when they loaned to a country long known for its profligate ways. In contrast, a bailout forces unwitting taxpayers to foot the bill for Greece’s sins. This can only breed resentment, not to mention reduced incentives for other countries to restrain their own spending.

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Every economic theory – even socialism and Marxism – agrees that saving and investment (a.k.a., capital formation) are a key to long-run growth and higher living standards. Yet the tax code penalizes with double taxation those who are willing to forego current consumption to finance future prosperity. This new Center for Freedom and Prosperity video explains why the capital gains tax should be abolished.

Unfortunately, Obama wants to go in the wrong direction. He wants to boost the official capital gains tax rate from 15 percent to 20 percent – and that is after imposing a back-door 3.8 percentage point increase in the tax rate as part of his government-run healthcare scheme.

Share this post with your friends and neighbors. If enough people understand why the capital gains tax is a job killer that reduces American competitiveness, perhaps the wrong thing won’t happen.

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