Tag Archives: american enterprise institute

The result of having lots of taxes is the mean IRS.

The result of having lots of taxes is the mean IRS.

The IRS: Even Worse Than You Think

Posted by Daniel J. Mitchell

Since it is tax-filing season and we all want to honor our wonderful tax system, let’sgo into the archives and show this video from last year about the onerous compliance costs of the internal revenue code.

Narrated by Hiwa Alaghebandian of the American Enterprise Institute, the mini-documentary explains how needless complexity creates an added burden – sort of like a hidden tax that we pay for the supposed privilege of paying taxes.

__________

The Onerous Compliance Cost of the Internal Revenue Code

Uploaded by  on Apr 12, 2010

The tax system is a complicated nightmare that forces taxpayers to devote ever-larger amounts of time, money, energy, and other resources in hopes of complying with the internal revenue code and avoiding IRS persecution. This CF&P Foundation video shows that this corrupt mess is the result of 97 years of social engineering and industrial policy that began almost immediately after that dark day in 1913 that the income tax was created. www.freedomandprosperity.org

______________________

Two things from the video are worth highlighting.

First, we should make sure to put most of the blame on Congress. As Ms. Alaghebandian notes, the IRS is in the unenviable position of trying to enforce Byzantine tax laws. Yes, there are examples of grotesque IRS abuse, but even the most angelic group of bureaucrats would have a hard time overseeing 70,000-plus pages of laws and regulations (by contrast, the Hong Kong flat tax, which has been in place for more than 60 years, requires less than 200 pages).

Second, we should remember that compliance costs are just the tip of the iceberg. The video also briefly mentions three other costs.

    1. The money we send to Washington, which is a direct cost to our pocketbooks and also an indirect cost since the money often is used tofinance counterproductive programs that further damage the economy.
    2. The budgetary burden of the IRS, which is a staggering $12.5 billion. This is the money we spend to employ an army of tax bureaucrats that is larger than the CIA and FBI combined.
    3. The economic burden of the tax system, which measures the lost economic output from a tax system that penalizes productive behavior.

The way to fix this mess, needless to say, is to junk the entire tax code and start all over.

I’ve been a big proponent of the flat tax, which would mean one low tax rate, no double taxation of savings, and no corrupt loopholes. But I’m also a big fan of national sales tax proposals such as the Fair Tax, assuming we can amend the Constitution so that greedy politicians don’t pull a bait and switch and impose both an income tax and a sales tax.

But the most important thing we need to understand is that bloated government is our main problem. If we had a limited federal government, as our Founding Fathers envisioned, it would be almost impossible to have a bad tax system. But if we continue to move in the direction of becoming a European-style welfare state, it will be impossible to have a good tax system.

Barney Frank and Chris Dodd mentioned in October 11, 2011 Republican debate with video clip

Dodd and Frank are the real villians of the mortgage mess and I knew that 3 years ago after reading this article below. Who did the Democrats get to clean up this mess? You guessed it. What a joke.

Who Are the Villains of the Mortgage Mess?

by Daniel J. Mitchell 

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow specializing in tax issues and author of The Flat Tax: Freedom, Fairness, Jobs, and Growth.

Added to cato.org on October 14, 2008

This article appeared in the Los Angeles Times on October 14, 2008.

In this current mess, one problem is identifying the heroes and villains in Congress. Many analysts conveniently dodge this question and instead make the rather novel claim that the turmoil in financial markets somehow is the result of deregulation. Yet the financial services industry is probably the most heavily regulated sector of the American economy, saddled with hundreds of laws, thousands of regulations and a plethora of government agencies. If red tape were the answer, this problem never would have happened.

Many lawmakers want more rules and regulation governing disclosure, ostensibly to protect consumers. But the existing policies already have created a jumble of legalese that even highly sophisticated borrowers have trouble grasping, so it is far from apparent how this would help. A far better approach would be sweeping deregulation, replacing all the current clutter with a simple, easy-to-understand disclosure form, such as the one proposed by Alex Pollock of the American Enterprise Institute (PDF).

Back to identifying the heroes and villains. To assign blame, it is first necessary to understand what caused the problem. At the risk of oversimplification, let’s touch on three main causes of the financial turmoil and identify the culprits in the political world:

Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow specializing in tax issues and author of The Flat Tax: Freedom, Fairness, Jobs, and Growth.

 

More by Daniel J. Mitchell

Problem No. 1– easy-money policy from the Federal Reserve: In an ideal world, the Federal Reserve provides the liquidity needed to enable commerce but avoids excess liquidity to avoid either rising prices (which happens when excess money bids up consumer prices) or bubbles (which happens when excess money bids up asset prices). The Fed clearly failed in this regard, as evidenced by unsustainably low interest rates earlier this decade.

Culprits: Almost every single politician deserves a share of the blame. The political class likes easy money. In the early stages, inflation feels good. Voters feel like they have more money in their pockets and borrowers (who always outnumber lenders) like the artificially low interest rates. And that is why very few voices were raised against the Federal Reserve’s policy.

Problem No. 2 — corrupt subsidies from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: These government-sponsored enterprises were created explicitly to distort the flow of capital and encourage over-investment in residential real estate. Responding in part to campaign contributions (a clear conflict of interest), politicians dramatically expanded the power of Fannie and Freddie in recent years, thus creating widespread systemic risk because of the implicit (now explicit) government guarantee.

Culprits: Many politicians from both parties were recipients of campaign contributions from the Fannie and Freddie slush funds, though Democrats had their hands much deeper in the cookie jar. The Bush administration has a very dismal economic record, but the White House does deserve some credit for having tried to rein in Fannie and Freddie earlier this decade. Opponents, led by Democrats Barney Frank in the House and Chris Dodd in the Senate, blocked reforms that would have saved huge amounts of money for taxpayers.

Problem No. 3 — the Community Reinvestment Act: Politicians imposed numerous regulatory burdens on financial institutions, but “affordable lending” requirements such as those imposed as a result of the Community Reinvestment Act were among the most perverse. In effect, banks were extorted into making loans to people who were not credit worthy. This added to the bubble and expanded systemic risk. It’s also worth noting that poor people were victimized by this government policy, because many of them were lured into houses they could not afford.

Culprits: President Carter presumably deserves some of the blame because many of these policies were first imposed during his dismal reign, primarily with support from Democrats. But the so-called affordable-lending requirements were expanded during the Clinton and the current Bush administrations, so the GOP is not without blame.

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The result of having lots of taxes is the mean IRS.

The result of having lots of taxes is the mean IRS.

The IRS: Even Worse Than You Think

Posted by Daniel J. Mitchell

Since it is tax-filing season and we all want to honor our wonderful tax system, let’s go into the archives and show this video from last year about the onerous compliance costs of the internal revenue code.

Narrated by Hiwa Alaghebandian of the American Enterprise Institute, the mini-documentary explains how needless complexity creates an added burden – sort of like a hidden tax that we pay for the supposed privilege of paying taxes.

__________

The Onerous Compliance Cost of the Internal Revenue Code

Uploaded by on Apr 12, 2010

The tax system is a complicated nightmare that forces taxpayers to devote ever-larger amounts of time, money, energy, and other resources in hopes of complying with the internal revenue code and avoiding IRS persecution. This CF&P Foundation video shows that this corrupt mess is the result of 97 years of social engineering and industrial policy that began almost immediately after that dark day in 1913 that the income tax was created. www.freedomandprosperity.org

______________________

Two things from the video are worth highlighting.

First, we should make sure to put most of the blame on Congress. As Ms. Alaghebandian notes, the IRS is in the unenviable position of trying to enforce Byzantine tax laws. Yes, there are examples of grotesque IRS abuse, but even the most angelic group of bureaucrats would have a hard time overseeing 70,000-plus pages of laws and regulations (by contrast, the Hong Kong flat tax, which has been in place for more than 60 years, requires less than 200 pages).

Second, we should remember that compliance costs are just the tip of the iceberg. The video also briefly mentions three other costs.

    1. The money we send to Washington, which is a direct cost to our pocketbooks and also an indirect cost since the money often is used to finance counterproductive programs that further damage the economy.
    2. The budgetary burden of the IRS, which is a staggering $12.5 billion. This is the money we spend to employ an army of tax bureaucrats that is larger than the CIA and FBI combined.
    3. The economic burden of the tax system, which measures the lost economic output from a tax system that penalizes productive behavior.

The way to fix this mess, needless to say, is to junk the entire tax code and start all over.

I’ve been a big proponent of the flat tax, which would mean one low tax rate, no double taxation of savings, and no corrupt loopholes. But I’m also a big fan of national sales tax proposals such as the Fair Tax, assuming we can amend the Constitution so that greedy politicians don’t pull a bait and switch and impose both an income tax and a sales tax.

But the most important thing we need to understand is that bloated government is our main problem. If we had a limited federal government, as our Founding Fathers envisioned, it would be almost impossible to have a bad tax system. But if we continue to move in the direction of becoming a European-style welfare state, it will be impossible to have a good tax system.

Arthur Brooks on Debt Ceiling

I got a lot of useful information out of this article from the Wall Street Wall Street Journal  The Debt Ceiling ‘Skirmish  

 

MONDAY, JULY 25, 2011

The Debt Ceiling ‘Skirmish’

 
 
We couldn’t help but be impressed with a column by Arthur C. Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute which is appearing in the Wall Street Journal.   The column, The Debt Ceiling and the Pursuit of Happiness, probably won’t appear in the local daily but it sure spells out the reality of the current fight and what is at stake.   With that said we suggest the following is mandatory reading for our conservative and liberal friends:
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“The battle over the debt ceiling is only the latest skirmish in what promises to be an ongoing, exhausting war over budget issues. Americans can be forgiven for seeing the whole business as petty, selfish and tiresome. Conservatives in particular are beginning to worry that public patience will wear thin over their insistence that our nation’s government-spending problem must be remedied through spending cuts, not by raising more revenues.

But before they succumb to too much caution, budget reformers need to remember three things. First, this is not a political fight between Republicans and Democrats; it is a fight against 50-year trends toward statism. Second, it is a moral fight, not an economic one. Third, this is not a fight that anyone can win in the 15 months from now to the presidential election. It will take hard work for at least a decade.Consider a few facts. The Bureau of Economic Analysis tells us that total government spending at all levels has risen to 37% of gross domestic product today from 27% in 1960—and is set to reach 50% by 2038.

The Tax Foundation reports that between 1986 and 2008, the share of federal income taxes paid by the top 5% of earners has risen to 59% from 43%. Between 1986 and 2009, the percentage of Americans who pay zero or negative federal income taxes has increased to 51% from 18.5%. And all this is accompanied by an increase in our national debt to 100% of GDP today from 42% in 1980.

Where will it all lead? Some despairing souls have concluded there are really only two scenarios. In one, we finally hit a tipping point where so few people actually pay for their share of the growing government that a majority become completely invested in the social welfare state, which stabilizes at some very high level of taxation and government social spending. (Think Sweden.)

In the other scenario, our welfare state slowly collapses under its weight, and we get some kind of permanent austerity after the rest of the world finally comprehends the depth of our national spending disorder and stops lending us money at low interest rates. (Think Greece.)

In other words: Heads, the statists win; tails, we all lose.

Anyone who seeks to provide serious national political leadership today—those elected in 2010 or who seek national office in 2012—owe Americans a plan to escape having to make this choice. We need tectonic changes, not minor fiddling.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R., Wis.) budget plan is the kind of model necessary. But structural change will only succeed if it’s accompanied by a moral argument—an unabashed cultural defense of the free enterprise system that helps Americans remember why they love their country and its exceptional culture.

America’s Founders knew the importance of moral language, which is why they asserted our unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, not to the possession of property. Similarly, Adam Smith, the father of free-market economics, had a philosophy that transcended the mere wealth of nations. His greatest book was “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” a defense of a culture that could support true freedom and provide the greatest life satisfaction.

Yet today, it is progressives, not free marketeers, who use the language of morality. President Obama was not elected because of his plans about the taxation of repatriated profits, or even his ambition to reform health care. He was elected largely on the basis of language about hope and change, and a “fairer” America.

The irony is that statists have a more materialistic philosophy than free-enterprise advocates. Progressive solutions to cultural problems always involve the tools of income redistribution, and call it “social justice.”

Free-enterprise advocates, on the other hand, speak privately about freedom and opportunity for everybody—including the poor. Most support a limited safety net, but also believe that succeeding on our merits, doing something meaningful, and having responsibility for our own affairs are what give us the best life. Sadly, in public, they always seem stuck in the language of economic efficiency.

The result is that year after year we slip further down the redistributionist road, dissatisfied with the growing welfare state, but with no morally satisfying arguments to make a change that entails any personal sacrifice.

Examples are all around us. It is hard to find anyone who likes our nation’s current health-care policies. But do you seriously expect grandma to sit idly by and let Republicans experiment with her Medicare coverage so her great-grandchildren can get better treatment for carried interest? Not a chance.

If reformers want Americans to embrace real change, every policy proposal must be framed in terms of self-realization, meritocratic fairness and the promise of a better future. Why do we want to lower taxes for entrepreneurs? Because we believe in earned success. Why do we care about economic growth? To make individual opportunity possible, not simply to increase wealth. Why do we need entitlement reform? Because it is wrong to steal from our children.

History shows that big moral struggles can be won, but only when they are seen as decade-long fights and not just as a way to prevail in the next election. Welfare reform was first proposed in 1984 and regarded popularly as a nonstarter. Twelve years of hard work by scholars at my own institution and others helped make it a mainstream idea (signed into law by a Democratic president) and perhaps the best policy for helping the poor to escape poverty in our nation’s history. Political consultants would have abandoned welfare reform as unworkably audacious and politically suicidal. Real leaders understood that its moral importance transcended short-term politics.

No one deserves our political support today unless he or she is willing to work for as long as it takes to win the moral fight to steer our nation back toward enterprise and self-governance. This fight will not be easy or politically safe. But it will be a happy one: to share the values that make us proud to be Americans.”

Mr. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute and author of “The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future” (Basic Books, 2010).

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