The Problem With Taxes In America

Walter Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University, posted an article at The Daily Wire today about taxes.

Professor Williams noted a few things about taxes in America:

The argument that tax cuts reduce federal revenues can be disposed of quite easily. According to the Congressional Budget Office, revenues from federal income taxes were $76 billion higher in the first half of this year than they were in the first half of 2017. The Treasury Department says it expects that federal revenues will continue to exceed last year’s for the rest of 2018. Despite record federal revenues, 2018 will see a massive deficit, perhaps topping $1 trillion. Our massive deficit is a result not of tax cuts but of profligate congressional spending that outruns rising tax revenues. Grossly false statements about tax cuts’ reducing revenue should be put to rest in the wake of federal revenue increases seen with tax cuts during the Kennedy, Reagan and Trump administrations.

A very disturbing and mostly ignored issue is how absence of skin in the game negatively impacts the political arena. It turns out that 45 percent of American households, nearly 78 million individuals, have no federal income tax obligation. That poses a serious political problem. Americans with no federal income tax obligation become natural constituencies for big-spending politicians. After all, if one doesn’t pay federal income taxes, what does he care about big spending? Also, if one doesn’t pay federal taxes, why should he be happy about a tax cut? What’s in it for him? In fact, those with no skin in the game might see tax cuts as a threat to their handout programs.  (The underline is mine.)

The above information might explain why Democrats keep getting elected despite their overtaxation and reckless spending (yes, I know the Republicans also overspend).

The article concludes:

Another part of the Trump tax cuts was with corporate income — lowering the rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. That, too, has been condemned by the left as a tax cut for the rich. But corporations do not pay taxes. Why? Corporations are legal fictions. Only people pay taxes. If a tax is levied on a corporation, it will have one or more of the following responses in order to remain in business. It will raise the price of its product, lower its dividends to shareholders and/or lay off workers. Thus, only flesh-and-blood people pay taxes. We can think of corporations as tax collectors. Politicians love our ignorance about this. They suggest that corporations, not people, will be taxed. Here’s how to see through this charade: Suppose a politician told you, as a homeowner, “I’m not going to tax you. I’m going to tax your land.” I hope you wouldn’t fall for that jive. Land doesn’t pay taxes.

Getting back to skin in the game, sometimes I wonder whether one should be allowed in the game if he doesn’t have any skin in it.

It’s time to insure that everyone has some tax burden so that they will consider that burden when they vote.

How Much Does It Cost?

The Daily Signal posted an article today about single-payer health care. This was one of the signature issues of the Bernie Sanders’ campaign for President and is still being considered in some states.

The article reports:

Earlier this year, Sanders introduced a big and comprehensive “Medicare for All” proposal that would create a government-controlled health care system at the national level. The plan has gained momentum among Senate Democrats, but has also slammed into a fiscal reality check.

Three independent estimates from a diverse range of health care economists and policy analysts have highlighted the enormous additional cost of Sanders’ proposal. The liberal Urban Institute estimated that the 10-year costs would amount to a stunning $32 trillion, while the conservative Mercatus Center at George Mason University put the cost at $32.6 trillion.

Professor Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, used a different set of assumptions and set the 10-year price tag at $24.7 trillion.

Charles Blahous of the Mercatus Center said his own $32.6 trillion estimate made generous concessions for the purposes of calculation, and he accepted Sanders’ assumptions that the proposal would also generate savings, such as massive payment reductions to doctors and other medical professionals.

Blahous added that more realistic assumptions underlying estimates of the Sanders legislation would likely push the total taxpayer price tag even higher than $32.6 trillion.

The article mentions what has happened to state efforts to institute single-payer programs:

Officials in Sander’s home state of Vermont tried to make their state the first in the nation to create a “single payer” health care system. The ambitious proposal died after the costs were made known. According to an official state analysis, the proposal would have cost a total of $4.3 billion, with the state cost reaching $2.6 billion. As The Boston Globe noted, the entire Vermont budget in 2015 was just $4.9 billion. The state would have to increase the state personal income tax to 9.5 percent and add an 11.5 percent payroll tax.

Same problems with Colorado. Voters overwhelmingly rejected a Colorado ballot initiative to create a government-controlled health care system. That’s no surprise. According to an independent analysis, the proposed program, funded by an increase in state taxes, would still run an estimated deficit of $7.8 billion by 2028.

Even liberal California legislators have struggled to advance a “single payer” program. Their proposal has stalled, lacking the necessary legislative support. Again, this was not surprising given the cost. A California State Senate report concluded that the cost would total $400 billion and the state would have to raise $200 billion in new taxes.

There are things to consider other than cost. People in countries with single-payer often come to America for health care–it’s not that we are cheaper–we are not–but health care is available here. In Britain, people sometimes wait more than a year for heart surgery. Often they die while waiting. The free market works–even in health care. If America wants to improve its health care and reduce the cost, it needs to introduce the free market. That means getting rid of over-regulation by the government. There should be basic safety standards imposed by the government, but that should be the end of it. The free market works.

Where We Were And Where We Are

Walter Williams posted an article at Townhall today about welfare.

The following information about Walter Williams is posted on his Facebook page:

Born in Philadelphia in 1936, Walter E. Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from California State University (1965) and a master’s degree (1967) and doctorate (1972) in economics from the University of California at Los Angeles.

In 1980, he joined the faculty of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and is currently the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics. He has also served on the faculties of Los Angeles City College (1967-69), California State University (1967-1971) and Temple University (1973-1980). From 1963 to 1967, he was a group supervisor of juvenile delinquents for the Los Angeles County Probation Department.

More than 150 of his publications have appeared in scholarly journals such as Economic Inquiry, American Economic Review and Social Science Quarterly and popular publications such as Reader’s Digest, The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek. He has made many TV and radio appearances on such programs as Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose,” William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line,” “Face The Nation,” “Nightline” and “Crossfire.”

Walter Williams is one of the leading economists in America.

These are some highlights from his Townhall article:

Before the massive growth of our welfare state, private charity was the sole option for an individual or family facing insurmountable financial difficulties or other challenges. How do we know that? There is no history of Americans dying on the streets because they could not find food or basic medical assistance. Respecting the biblical commandment to honor thy father and mother, children took care of their elderly or infirm parents. Family members and the local church also helped those who had fallen on hard times.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, charities started playing a major role. In 1887, religious leaders founded the Charity Organization Society, which became the first United Way organization. In 1904, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America started helping at-risk youths reach their full potential. In 1913, the American Cancer Society, dedicated to curing and eliminating cancer, was formed. With their millions of dollars, industrial giants such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller created our nation’s first philanthropic organizations.

He further observes:

Before the welfare state, charity embodied both a sense of gratitude on the behalf of the recipient and magnanimity on the behalves of donors. There was a sense of civility by the recipients. They did not feel that they were owed, were entitled to or had a right to the largesse of the donor. Recipients probably felt that if they weren’t civil and didn’t express their gratitude, more assistance wouldn’t be forthcoming. In other words, they were reluctant to bite the hand that helped them. With churches and other private agencies helping, people were much likelier to help themselves and less likely to engage in self-destructive behavior. Part of the message of charitable groups was: “We’ll help you if you help yourself.”

The article concludes:

There is virtually no material poverty in the U.S. Eighty percent of households the Census Bureau labels as poor have air conditioning; nearly three-quarters have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more. Two-thirds have cable or satellite TV. Half have at least one computer. Forty-two percent own their homes. What we have in our nation is not material poverty but dependency and poverty of the spirit, with people making unwise choices and leading pathological lives, aided and abetted by the welfare state. Part of this pathological lifestyle is reflected in family structure. According to the 1938 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, that year 11 percent of black children and 3 percent of white children were born to unwed mothers. Today it’s respectively 75 percent and 30 percent.

 There are very little guts in the political arena to address the downside of the welfare state. To do so risks a politician’s being labeled as racist, sexist, uncaring and insensitive. That means today’s dependency is likely to become permanent.

Restoring the work requirement to welfare is a partial answer to the problem. However, the real answer is to restore the family, the moral values we have lost, and the value of parenting.

In March 2013, The Brookings Institute posted an article titled, “Three Simple Rules Poor Teens Should Follow to Join the Middle Class.”

These are the rules:

Let politicians, schoolteachers and administrators, community leaders, ministers and parents drill into children the message that in a free society, they enter adulthood with three major responsibilities: at least finish high school, get a full-time job and wait until age 21 to get married and have children.

Encouraging children to follow these rules is the way we could actually end the welfare state.

 

Why We Need Tax Reform

Yesterday, Walter E. Williams, a professor of economics at George Mason University, posted an article in The Daily Signal. The article explains who pays taxes in the United States.

The article reports:

According to the latest IRS data, the payment of income taxes is as follows.

The top 1 percent of income earners, those having an adjusted annual gross income of $480,930 or higher, pay about 39 percent of federal income taxes. That means about 892,000 Americans are stuck with paying 39 percent of all federal taxes.

The top 10 percent of income earners, those having an adjusted gross income over $138,031, pay about 70.6 percent of federal income taxes.

About 1.7 million Americans, less than 1 percent of our population, pay 70.6 percent of federal income taxes.

The article points out that there are some serious questions about the fairness of this arrangement:

But the fairness question goes further. The bottom 50 percent of income earners, those having an adjusted gross income of $39,275 or less, pay 2.83 percent of federal income taxes.

Thirty-seven million tax filers have no tax obligation at all. The Tax Policy Center estimates that 45.5 percent of households will not pay federal income tax this year.

There’s a severe political problem of so many Americans not having any skin in the game. These Americans become natural constituencies for big-spending politicians. After all, if you don’t pay federal taxes, what do you care about big spending?

So why should the bottom 50 percent of income earners and those who pay no income tax be interested in electing people who will cut taxes and stop runaway spending? If less than 1 percent of the population is carrying the tax burden, they really don’t have any serious political leverage–they are a very small voting bloc.

There is also another aspect to this:

There’s another side to taxes that goes completely unappreciated. According to a 2013 study by the Virginia-based Mercatus Center, Americans spend up to $378 billion annually in tax-related accounting costs, and in 2011, Americans spent more than 6 billion hours complying with the tax code.

Those hours are equivalent to the annual hours of a workforce of 3.4 million, or the number of people employed by four of the largest U.S. companies—Wal-Mart, IBM, McDonald’s, and Target—combined.

Along with tax cuts, tax simplification should be on the agenda.

Our current tax code is a tribute to the successful efforts of lobbyists and special interest groups. That needs to change.

 

 

When Tolerance Is A One-Way Street

Steven Hayward posted an article at Power Line today about George Mason University. The University has announced that the University’s law school will be renamed the Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University. Steven Hayward notes that this is surely going to cause a reaction among the students.

The update of the article includes the following reaction by a student:

Please Tell Me GMU Law School Is Playing a Really Sick April Fools Joke

It’s bad enough that GMU’s Mercatus Center is a Koch-sucking far-right-wing organization (e.g., see this New Yorker article, which discusses how “the Koch family foundations have contributed more than thirty million dollars to George Mason, much of which has gone to the Mercatus Center”).  But now….this??? Let me remind everyone that Antonin Scalia was a corruptbigoted extremist. Why would anyone in their (far) right mind want to name anything after that guy, let alone a law school? Has GMU gone completely off its rocker or what? Or, as ThinkProgress Justice Editor Ian Millhiser puts it, GMU can now “stop pretending to be anything other than a conservative policy shop with students.” Ugh. I mean, what’s GMU going to do next, the Trump School for Ethics and Tolerance?

I seem to remember that many of our university students were asking for ‘safe spaces’ where their ideas would not be questioned or challenged. How horrible that our students at higher learning institutes might be forced to think through or defend their ideas. At any rate, this reaction does not seem to be very tolerant. Does the student understand that the money donated by the Koch family is partially responsible for making his/her education possible? Has it occurred to the student who wrote the above to consider the political leanings of The New Yorker when reading their comments about the Koch family? How does this student feel about the money George Soros pours into American politics?

It is a shame that this particular student does not respect the role Antonin Scalia played in defending the U.S. Constitution at the Supreme Court. It seems that a major part of the student’s civic education is missing.

A Danger To Our Constitution

Today’s Daily Caller posted an article today about President Obama’s plan to deal with climate change. President Obama is planning on unilaterally committing America to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions in the coming years.

Aside from the questionable ‘science’ of global warming, there is the issue of how President Obama is going about this.

The article reports:

In a congressional hearing Thursday, George Mason University law professor Jeremy Rabkin told lawmakers that Obama’s argument that he unilaterally commit the U.S. to a United Nations agreement without Senate ratification was “a real change in our Constitution.”

…“We have certain background assumptions about how our government is supposed to work, that’s why we have a Constitution,” Rabkin responded.

“And what this is fundamentally about is saying, ‘ah, that’s old-fashioned, forget that, that didn’t work for [President Bill] Clinton– we’re moving forward with something different which the president gets to commit us,’” Rabkin added. “That’s a real change in our Constitution.”

This is a problem. Unless Congress has the intestinal fortitude to stand up against this power grab, we will be in danger of losing our Constitution. Because the U.S. Constitution functions as ‘the law of the land,’ at that point we will no longer be a nation of laws. The only way to stop this runaway train is to watch your Representatives and Senators to see what they do, and then vote accordingly in November.