–What will help the poor? Taxes vs. Spending Monday, Dec 20 2010 

The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology. Those, who do not understand monetary sovereignty, do not understand economics. Cutting the federal deficit is the most ignorant and damaging step the federal government could take. It ranks ahead of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff.
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Now that the new tax bill has passed, three related issues will remain in the news:

1. Will tax reductions cause inflation? (In the unlikely event they do, the Fed will prevent/cure inflation by raising interest rates)

2. Will tax reductions bankrupt Social Security and Medicare? (No. Because the federal government is Monetarily Sovereign, federal spending is not constrained by taxes. If FICA were reduced to $0, this would not affect by even one penny the federal government’s ability to support Social Security and Medicare. Tax reductions cannot bankrupt the U.S. or any of its agencies.)

3. Should taxes on the rich be increased as soon as the current law expires? That is the question discussed in this post.

Some people favor higher taxes on the rich, because they believe this somehow will help the poor. The concept is that by taxing the rich, we close the “gap” between rich and poor, and this closed gap benefits the poor.

I discuss this “gap” further at Closing the Gap and at A Partial Solution for the Gap.

I strongly empathize with the desire to aid the poor. But bringing down the rich is not the way. Whether Bill Gates has $50 billion or is brought down to “only” $10 billion, does not affect the poor. We have had 90% top tax rates, and that did nothing to help the poor. In fact, increasing taxes on anyone, rich or poor, removes money from the economy, which slows the economy. Slowed economic growth always hurts the poor more than the rich, as witness the most recent recession. Who was hurt most, the rich or the poor?

As I mentioned, the federal government does not spend tax money. Unlike state and local governments, which are not Monetarily Sovereign, the federal government spends money it creates ad hoc. If the wealthy were taxed at the 99.99% rate, this would not increase by even one cent, the federal government’s ability to spend, i.e. to help the poor.

The poor benefit most when the economy is growing fastest, because that increases the availability of jobs and money. So to help the poor, we must stimulate the economy. That is, if we want to help the poor, we very simply should help the poor. The Federal government could:

–Increase Social Security benefits.
–Initiate free universal health care insurance.
–Increase unemployment benefits.
–Pay a salary to all students. ( SALARY)
–Eliminate FICA. (FICA)
–Increase the standard deduction on income taxes.
–Allow home rent to be tax deductible.
–Increase food stamps.
–Pay states and cities to reduce sales taxes

There are many ways to help the poor. We should focus on that, not on punishing the rich, which may provide some emotional satisfactions, but does not provide financial benefits to anyone. Let me see some of your ideas for helping the poor.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
http://www.rodgermitchell.com

No nation can tax itself into prosperity. Those who say the stimulus “didn’t work” remind me of the guy whose house is on fire. A neighbor runs with a garden hose and starts spraying, but the fire continues. The neighbor wants to call the fire department, which would bring the big hoses, but the guy says, “Don’t call. As you can see, water doesn’t put out fires.”

–Which Taxes Are Fairest? Which Taxes are Least Fair? Thursday, Dec 16 2010 

The debt hawks are to economics as the creationists are to biology. Those, who do not understand monetary sovereignty, do not understand economics. Cutting the federal deficit is the most ignorant and damaging step the federal government could take. It ranks ahead of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff.
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Lately, there has been more talk about revising our taxes to be more “fair.” There even is an organization that calls itself FairTax.org, which promotes a national sales tax, a first cousin to the European style value-added tax.

All federal taxes remove money from our economy, and for that reason, all federal taxes hurt our economy. Unfortunately, the belief that federal taxes are necessary (They are not) is so powerfully ingrained, it is impossible to have a rational discussion on the subject. So we are left with repeated attempts to fix the unfixable.

Tax fairness often is confused with tax simplification. The U.S. Tax Code contains 50 Chapters. Each chapter is divided into Sub Chapters, each of which is divided into Parts, and then into Paragraphs, all of which are subject to interpretation by Congress, the Internal Revenue Service and the courts.

Because all elements of our economy are intertwined, the interpretation of one paragraph impacts the interpretations of other paragraphs, which then require further interpretations, which impact other paragraphs and ad infinitum. Thus, our Tax Code has acquired infinite complexity, which one could argue is unfair. Supposedly there was a king who nailed laws too high to be read, then punished those who broke the laws.

Tax complexity is inevitable. Imagine the simplest possible tax idea: Tax every man, woman and child $1,000 per year. Period. Simple enough?

How long would it be before “modifications” would be made? Reduce this tax on the poor. Increase it on the rich. Multiple definitions of “poor” and “rich.” Various payment requirements (monthly? quarterly? annually?). Charitable deductions allowed? Do businesses pay? Definitions of “business” vs. “person.” Even the simplest possible tax idea soon will turn ever more complex and so, unfair.

The American ethic is based on “getting ahead” and on “fairness.” However, being ahead seems unfair to those who are behind. Taxes can be levied in a variety of ways, all justifiable as “fair” and all condemned as “unfair.”

A unit tax on individuals: Each person pays the same tax (similar to an airport departure tax). This tax is fair, because it treats every individual equally. This tax is unfair, because it takes as much from the poor as from the rich.

“Sin” or luxury taxes on cigarettes, liquor, entertainment, gambling, restaurants, travel, etc. are fair, because they tax things we do not need. These taxes are unfair, because they arbitrarily designate certain items as not being needed. (Is an apple “needed?”)

FICA is fair, because the people who pay are the people who receive. This tax is unfair, because it is a regressive tax.

Sales taxes are fair, because each person pays according to his consumption. Sales taxes are unfair, because they place a burden on low income people, who spend a greater percentage of their income and save/invest less.

Flat-rate income tax is fair, because each person pays the same rate. These taxes are unfair, because the poor cannot afford to pay as high a rate as the wealthy. They also are unfair, because some people will pay more than others.

Progressive rate income tax is fair, because high earners can afford to pay a higher rate. This tax is unfair, because even at a flat rate, higher earners would pay more. A progressive rate compounds the unfairness.

Tax on Social Security benefits is fair, because social security is just another form of income. These taxes are unfair, because income tax already was paid on Social Security deposits. It is a double tax.

Tax on Medicare benefits. See above.

Inheritance tax is fair, because wealthy families can afford to pay more. This tax is unfair, because taxes already have been paid on the assets being inherited. It is a double tax.

Personal property tax is fair, because the wealthy can afford to pay more. This tax is unfair, because taxes already have been paid on the earnings needed to acquire the assets. It is another double tax.

Tax on stock dividends is fair, because dividends are no different from any other income. This tax is unfair, because companies cannot deduct the cost and already have paid taxes on the earnings. It is one more double tax.

Taxes on corporations are fair because business should pay its share. These taxes are unfair, because they penalize workers by reducing corporations’ ability to hire and to pay salaries and benefits.

All taxes are fair and unfair, depending on whose toes are pinched. Discussions of tax fairness are sophistry, demagoguery or both. If you hear someone arguing that one federal tax is fairer than another, mark that person as a liar or a fool.

The question of federal tax fairness is not an appropriate subject for economics’ discussions. No tax is fair, and the federal government doesn’t need tax money. Perhaps the discussion is more appropriate for a psychology seminar.

If taxes are to be collected for anti-inflation purposes, the real question should be: How harmful is it to the overall economy?

In nearly all cases, the tax will be harmful. (Exceptions may be taxes collected to curtail harmful items that politically cannot be eliminated by law. These include taxes on guns, drugs, cigarettes, etc.)

I submit that the most harmful taxes tend to be those most likely to widen the Gap between the rich and the rest, i.e. the most regressive taxes.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
http://www.rodgermitchell.com

No nation can tax itself into prosperity. Those who say the stimulus “didn’t work” remind me of the guy whose house is on fire. A neighbor runs with a garden hose and starts spraying, but the fire continues. The neighbor wants to call the fire department, which would bring the big hoses, but the guy says, “Don’t call. As you can see, water doesn’t put out fires.”

 

–How not to improve America Wednesday, Mar 3 2010 

An alternative to popular faith

Much of the proposed cost to improve health care will be paid for by cuts in Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals. Clearly, that should improve health care.

Next, we can improve education by having our federal and local governments cut teachers’ salaries and support of schools.

Then, we can improve public safety by cutting police salaries.

And, we can strengthen our army by cutting military pay and investment in weapons research and production.

We can improve America’s brain power by deporting all those aliens, and not letting anyone new in.

And, we can increase medical drug research by restricting profits of those rich, greedy, pharmaceutical companies.

And, we can improve our infrastructure by spending less to repair roads and bridges, along with the electrical and communications grids.

And we can achieve energy independence if the government limits those rich, greedy, oil companies’ profits, while spending less on solar, wind, geothermal and atomic power.

Finally, we can increase economic and jobs growth by raising taxes, particularly on businesses and on the rich (people making more than $200,000 per year).

Taking all of the above steps will complete the anti-deficit, anti-government, xenophobic, Tea Party, class warfare, populist initiatives that seem so much in the news.

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
http://www.rodgermitchell.com