Category Archives: Cato Institute

Dan Mitchell article “New Leak of Taxpayer Info Is (More) Evidence of IRS Corruption”

New Leak of Taxpayer Info Is (More) Evidence of IRS Corruption

I sometimes try to go easy on the IRS. After all, our wretched tax system is largely the fault of politicians, who have spent the past 108 years creating a punitive and corrupt set of tax laws.

But there is still plenty of IRS behavior to criticize. Most notably, the tax agency allowed itself to be weaponized by the Obama White House,using its power to persecute and harass organizations associated with the “Tea Party.”

That grotesque abuse of power largely was designed to weaken opposition to Obama’s statist agenda and make it easier for him to win re-election.

Now there’s a new IRS scandal. In hopes of advancing President Biden’s class-warfare agenda, the bureaucrats have leaked confidential taxpayer information to ProPublica, a left-wing website.

Here’s some of what that group posted.

ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. …ProPublica undertook an analysis that has never been done before.We compared how much in taxes the 25 richest Americans paid each year to how much Forbes estimated their wealth grew in that same time period. We’re going to call this their true tax rate. …those 25 people saw their worth rise a collective $401 billion from 2014 to 2018. They paid a total of $13.6 billion in federal income taxes in those five years, the IRS data shows. That’s a staggering sum, but it amounts to a true tax rate of only 3.4%.

Since I’m a policy wonk, I’ll first point out that ProPublicacreated a make-believe number. We (thankfully) don’t tax wealth in the United States.

So Elon Musk’s income is completely unrelated to what happened to the value of his Tesla shares. The same is true for Jeff Bezos’ income and the value of his Amazon stock.*

And the same thing is true for the rest of us. If our IRA or 401(k) rises in value, that doesn’t mean our taxable income has increased. If our home becomes more valuable, that also doesn’t count as taxable income.

The Wall Street Journal opined on this topic today and made a similar point.

There is no evidence of illegality in the ProPublica story. …ProPublica knows this, so its story tries to invent a scandal by calculatingwhat it calls the “true tax rate” these fellows are paying. This is a phony construct that exists nowhere in the law and compares how much the “wealth” of these individuals increased from 2014 to 2018 compared to how much income tax they paid. …what Americans pay is a tax on income, not wealth.

Some journalists don’t understand this distinction between income and wealth.

Or perhaps they do understand, but pretend otherwise because they see their role as being handmaidens of the Biden Administration.

Consider these excerpts from a column by Binyamin Appelbaum of the New York Times.

Jeff Bezos…added an estimated $99 billion in wealth between 2014 and 2018 but reported only $4.22 billion in taxable income during that period.Warren Buffett, who amassed $24.3 billion in new wealth over those years, reported $125 million in taxable income. …some of the wealthiest people in the United States essentially live under a different system of income taxation from the rest of us.

Mr. Appelbaum is wrong. The rich have a lot more assets than the rest of us, but they operate under the same rules.

If I have an asset that increases in value, that doesn’t count as taxable income. And it isn’t income. It’s merely a change in net wealth.

And the same is true if Bill Gates has an asset that increases in value.

Now that we’ve addressed the policy mistakes, let’s turn our attention to the scandal of IRS misbehavior.

The WSJ‘s editorial addresses the agency’s grotesque actions.

Less than half a year into the Biden Presidency, the Internal Revenue Service is already at the center of an abuse-of-power scandal. …ProPublica, a website whose journalism promotes progressive causes, published information from what it said are 15 years of the tax returns of Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and other rich Americans. …The story arrives amid the Biden Administration’s effort to pass the largest tax increase as a share of the economy since 1968. …The timing here is no coincidence, comrade. …someone leaked confidential IRS information about individuals to serve a political agenda. This is the same tax agency that pursued a vendetta against conservative nonprofit groups during the Obama Administration. Remember Lois Lerner? This is also the same IRS that Democrats now want to infuse with $80 billion more… As part of this effort, Mr. Biden wants the IRS to collect “gross inflows and outflows on all business and personal accounts from financial institutions.” Why? So the information can be leaked to ProPublica? …Congress should also not trust the IRS with any more power and money than it already has.

And Charles Cooke of National Review also weighs in on the implications of a weaponized and partisan IRS.

We cannot trust the IRS. “Oh, who cares?” you might ask. “The victims are billionaires!” And indeed, they are. But I care. For a start, they’re American citizens, and they’re entitled to the same rights — and protected by the same laws — as everyone else. …Besides, even if one wants to be entirely amoral about it, one should consider that if their information can be spilled onto the Internet, anyone’s can.…A government that is this reckless or sinister with the information of men who are lawyered to the eyeballs is unlikely to worry too much about being reckless or sinister with your information. …The IRS wields an extraordinary amount of power, and there will always be somebody somewhere who thinks that it should be used to advance their favorite political cause. Our refusal to indulge their calls is one of the many things that prevents us from descending into the caprice and chaos of your average banana republic. …Does that bother you? It should.

What’s especially disgusting is that the Biden Administration wants to reward IRS corruption with giant budget increases, bolstered by utterly fraudulent numbers.

Needless to say, that would be a terrible idea (sadly, Republicans in the past have been sympathetic to expanding the size of the tax bureaucracy).

*Financial assets such as stocks generally increase in value because of an expectation of bigger streams of income in the future (such as dividends). Those income streams are taxed (often multiple times) when (and if) they actually materialize.

Open letter to President Obama (Part 644)

(Emailed to White House on 6-10-13.)

President Obama c/o The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I know that you receive 20,000 letters a day and that you actually read 10 of them every day. I really do respect you for trying to get a pulse on what is going on out here.

The federal government debt is growing so much that it is endangering us because if things keep going like they are now we will not have any money left for the national defense because we are so far in debt as a nation. We have been spending so much on our welfare state through food stamps and other programs that I am worrying that many of our citizens are becoming more dependent on government and in many cases they are losing their incentive to work hard because of the welfare trap the government has put in place. Other nations in Europe have gone down this road and we see what mess this has gotten them in. People really are losing their faith in big government and they want more liberty back. It seems to me we have to get back to the founding  principles that made our country great.  We also need to realize that a big government will encourage waste and corruption. The recent scandals in our government have proved my point. In fact, the jokes you made at Ohio State about possibly auditing them are not so funny now that reality shows how the IRS was acting more like a monster out of control. Also raising taxes on the job creators is a very bad idea too. The Laffer Curve clearly demonstrates that when the tax rates are raised many individuals will move their investments to places where they will not get taxed as much.

______________________

We can fix the IRS problem by going to the flat tax and lowering the size of government.

Did President Obama and his team of Chicago cronies deliberately target the Tea Party in hopes of thwarting free speech and political participation?

Was this part of a campaign to win the 2012 election by suppressing Republican votes?

Perhaps, but I’ve warned that it’s never a good idea to assume top-down conspiracies when corruption, incompetence, politics, ideology, greed, and self-interest are better explanations for what happens in Washington.

Writing for the Washington Examiner, Tim Carney has a much more sober and realistic explanation of what happened at the IRS.

If you take a group of Democrats who are also unionized government employees, and put them in charge of policing political speech, it doesn’t matter how professional and well-intentioned they are. The result will be much like the debacle in the Cincinnati office of the IRS. …there’s no reason to even posit evil intent by the IRS officials who formulated, approved or executed the inappropriate guidelines for picking groups to scrutinize most closely. …The public servants figuring out which groups qualified for 501(c)4 “social welfare” non-profit status were mostly Democrats surrounded by mostly Democrats. …In the 2012 election, every donation traceable to this office went to President Obama or liberal Sen. Sherrod Brown. This is an environment where even those trying to be fair could develop a disproportionate distrust of the Tea Party. One IRS worker — a member of NTEU and contributor to its PAC, which gives 96 percent of its money to Democratic candidates — explained it this way: “The reason NTEU mostly supports Democratic candidates for office is because Democratic candidates are mostly more supportive of civil servants/government employees.”

Tim concludes with a wise observation.

As long as we have a civil service workforce that leans Left, and as long as we have an income tax system that requires the IRS to police political speech, conservative groups can always expect special IRS scrutiny.

And my colleague Doug Bandow, in an article for the American Spectator, adds his sage analysis.

The real issue is the expansive, expensive bureaucratic state and its inherent threat to any system of limited government, rule of law, and individual liberty. …the broader the government’s authority, the greater its need for revenue, the wider its enforcement power, the more expansive the bureaucracy’s discretion, the increasingly important the battle for political control, and the more bitter the partisan fight, the more likely government officials will abuse their positions, violate rules, laws, and Constitution, and sacrifice people’s liberties. The blame falls squarely on Congress, not the IRS.

I actually think he is letting the IRS off the hook too easily.

But Doug’s overall point obviously is true.

…the denizens of Capitol Hill also have created a tax code marked by outrageous complexity, special interest electioneering, and systematic social engineering. Legislators have intentionally created avenues for tax avoidance to win votes, and then complained about widespread tax avoidance to win votes.

So what’s the answer?

The most obvious response to the scandal — beyond punishing anyone who violated the law — is tax reform. Implement a flat tax and you’d still have an IRS, but the income tax would be less complex, there would be fewer “preferences” for the agency to police, and rates would be lower, leaving taxpayers with less incentive for aggressive tax avoidance. …Failing to address the broader underlying factors also would merely set the stage for a repeat performance in some form a few years hence. …More fundamentally, government, and especially the national government, should do less. Efficient social engineering may be slightly better than inefficient social engineering, but no social engineering would be far better.

Amen. Let’s rip out the internal revenue code and replace it with a simple and fair flat tax.

But here’s the challenge. We know the solution, but it will be almost impossible to implement good policy unless we figure out some way to restrain the spending side of the fiscal ledger.

___________________________

At the risk of over-simplifying, we will never get tax reform unless we figure out how to implement entitlement reform.

Here’s another Foden cartoon, which I like because it has the same theme asthis Jerry Holbert cartoon, showing big government as a destructive and malicious force.

IRS Cartoon 5

_____________

Thank you so much for your time. I know how valuable it is. I also appreciate the fine family that you have and your commitment as a father and a husband.

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733, lowcostsqueegees@yahoo.com

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By Everette Hatcher III | Posted in Taxes | Edit | Comments (0)

Dan Mitchell: “Biden campaigned for higher taxes and a bigger welfare state, so I haven’t been surprised by his misguided fiscal agenda”

 –

Biden’s Failure on Trade

Biden campaigned for higher taxes and a bigger welfare state, so I haven’t been surprised by his misguided fiscal agenda.

That being said, I was modestly hopeful that he would move trade policy in the right direction after four years of Trump’s protectionism.

To be sure, I didn’t think he would do the right thing because of some long-hidden belief in sound economics. But I figured he might reduce trade barriers simply to do the opposite of his predecessor.

We should be so lucky. Regardless of the policy, we’ve been getting statism.

Catherine Rampell of the Washington Post is not impressed by Biden’s protectionism.

Several months after he left office, some of President Donald Trump’s most foolish economic policies remain in place: his sweeping trade restrictions. …Trump began waging a series of trade wars three years ago — not primarily with U.S. adversaries, mind you, but with friends. Among the dumbest and most self-sabotaging measures were global tariffs levied on nearly $50 billion of imported steel and aluminum. …the countries most affected by Trump’s move were our close economic and military allies, including the European Union, Canada and Japan. …Despite Trump’s claims otherwise, the cost of the tariffs was primarily passed through to American consumers and companies. Downstream firms that use steel or inputs made of steel, which employ about 80 times more workers than the steel industry does, faced higher costs. One estimate found that Trump’s steel tariffs alone cost U.S. consumers and businesses about $900,000 for every job created or saved.

Getting rid of taxes on imported steel and aluminum would be a positive step for the economy.

But the real goal should be getting rid of all Trump’s taxes on global trade. Garrett Watson from the Tax Foundation recently shared estimates of how this would benefit the American economy.

…repealing the tariffs imposed under President Trump’s administration would be one of the simplest ways policymakers could boost economic growth. …About $460 billion worth of goods were subject to the tariffs, raising prices for consumers. In fact, we estimated the tariffs were about an $80 billion annual tax increase, reducing consumer purchasing power.…According to the Tax Foundation model, repealing tariffs imposed since 2018 would raise long-run GDP by 0.1 percent, long-run incomes (gross national product) by 0.2 percent, and create about 83,000 full-time equivalent jobs. This growth would boost after-tax incomes by about 0.3 percent for people across the income spectrum, helping low-income and middle-class taxpayers. …Repealing the tariffs would be a simple option to boost growth because it can be done without congressional authorization by President Biden, and would provide timely relief to businesses and households.

The last sentence is key. Trump had lots of unilateral authority to impose bad trade policy, and Biden has lots of unilateral authority to undo bad trade policy.

The fact that he hasn’t exercised that authority makes him just as guilty of anti-market trade policy as Trump.

The next thing to watch for is whether he continues Trump’s bad policy of sabotaging the World Trade Organization.

The Looming Crisis of Demographic Decline and Entitlement Expansion

There are many compelling economic arguments against entitlement programs.

Since I’m a libertarian, I also have moral concerns about tax-and-transfer programs.

Today, though, let’s address the big problem of entitlements and demographics, especially with regards to social insurance programs that transfer money from young people to old people (most notably Social Security and Medicare).

But I’ll start by acknowledging that demographics doesn’t have to be a problem. When nations first created such programs, they generally had “population pyramids” featuring a few old people, lots of working-age people (i.e., taxpayers), and then an even greater number of children (future workers and taxpayers).

As illustrated by this image, entitlement programs can be sustainable with that type of demographic profile.

But there’s been a big shift in demographics in developed nations.

Simply stated, we’re living longer and having fewer kids. In some sense, population pyramids are becoming population cylinders.

And this creates major challenges for entitlement programs because instead of there being many workers supporting just a few retirees, you wind up with “old-age dependency ratios” that require very onerous tax burdens (or very high levels of government borrowing).

I’ve already written how this is a big problem for the United States.

Indeed, I periodically cite long-run forecasts from the Congressional Budget Office to warn about the worrisome fiscal implications.

And I’ve also noted that Japan is in serious trouble.

Today, let’s look at some recent data to show that Europe is another part of the world where this problem is acute.

The European Commission published its 2021 Ageing Reportlate last year and there are three visuals that deserve attention.

First, here’s a look at the European Union’s population cylinder (or maybe an upside-down pyramid).

And here’s a table that compares the number of old people with the working-age population in 2019, 2045, and 2070.

At the bottom of the table, I’ve circled in red the averages for the eurozone (nations using the single currency) and the entire European Union. From the perspective of fiscal policy, these are horrific numbers.

But there are numbers that are even worse.

Our final visual is a table showing the economic dependency ratio, which the European Commission defines as “… the ratio between the total inactive population and employment. It gives a measure of the average number of individuals that each employed person ‘supports’ economically.”

Once again, I’ve circled the averages at the bottom of the table.

The bottom line is that most European nations already have a stifling fiscal burden, yet it’s all but certain that there will be even higher taxes and more government spending in the near future.

Which means more economic stagnation for Europe (and those of us in America face that possibility as well).

At the risk of stating the obvious, there is a solution to both Europe’s woes and America’s woes. Simply stated, there needs to be genuine entitlement reform.

That means “pre-funding,” which is the jargon for mandatory private savings, presumably augmented by some form of safety net.

Singapore is probably the world’s leading example for mandatory savings, while AustraliaDenmarkChileSwitzerlandHong KongNetherlandsFaroe Islands, and Sweden are a few of the many other jurisdictions that have fully or partially shifted to systems based on real savings.

Security from CRADLE TO GRAVE never quite works out!!!

Free to Choose Part 4: From Cradle to Grave Featuring Milton Friedman

I’m like a broken record when it comes to entitlement spending. I’ve explained, ad nauseam, that programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and Social Security must be reformed.

In part, genuine entitlement reform is a good idea because you get better economic performance when you replace tax-and-transfer schemes with private savings and competitive markets.

Demographic 2030But reform also is desperately needed because ofchanging demographics. Simply stated, leaving all the entitlement programs on autopilot is a recipe for a Greek-style fiscal crisis.

If you want a rigorous explanation of the issue, my colleague Jeff Miron has a must-read monograph on the topic. You should peruse the entire study, but here’s the key conclusion if you’re pressed for time.

…this paper projects fiscal imbalance as of every year between 1965 and 2014, using data-supported assumptions about gross domestic product (GDP) growth, revenue, and trends in mandatory spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs. The projections reveal that the United States has faced a growing fiscal imbalance since the early 1970s, largely as a consequence of continuous growth in mandatory spending. As of 2014, the fiscal imbalance stands at $117.9 trillion, with few signs of future improvement even if GDP growth accelerates or tax revenues increase relative to historic norms. Thus the only viable way to restore fiscal balance is to scale back mandatory spending policies, particularly on large health care programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Jeff’s report is filled with sobering charts. I’ve picked out three that deserve special attention.

First, here’s a look back in history at the growing fiscal burden of entitlement programs.

Second, here’s a look forward at how the fiscal burden of entitlement programs will get even worse in coming decades.

Keep in mind, by the way, that the two above charts only show the fiscal burden of entitlement programs (sometimes referred to as “mandatory spending” since the laws “mandate” that money be given to anyone who is “entitled” based on various criteria).

When you add discretionary (annually appropriated) spending to the mix, as well as interest that is paid on the national debt, the numbers get even more grim.

Jeff adds everything together and shows, for each year between 1965 and 2014, the “present value” of the gap between what the government is promising to spend and how much revenue it is projected to collect.

These numbers are especially horrific because “present value” is a measure of how much money the government would have to somehow obtain and set aside in order to have a nest egg capable of offsetting future deficits.

Needless to say, the federal government did not have access to $118 trillion (yes, trillion with a “t”) in 2014. And if there were updated numbers for 2015 and 2016 (which would probably be even higher than $118 trillion), the federal government still wouldn’t have access to that amount of money either.

Especially since the total annual output of the American economy is about $18 trillion.

So now you can understand why international bureaucracies like the IMF, BIS, and OECD estimate that the fiscal challenge in the United States may be even bigger than the problems in decrepit welfare states such as France and Italy.

Let’s get another perspective on the issue. James Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center warns about the scope of the problem.

Despite what presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been saying on the campaign trail, the need to reform the nation’s major entitlement programs cannot be wished away. The primary cause of the nation’s fiscal problems, now and in the future, is the rapid rise in entitlement spending. In 1970, spending on Social Security and the major health care entitlement programs was 3.6 percent of GDP. In 2015, spending on these programs was 10.3 percent of GDP. By 2040, CBO expects spending on these programs to reach 14.2 percent of GDP. …entitlement reform is needed to put the federal government’s finances on a more stable foundation.

He outlines his preferred reforms, some of which I heartily embrace and some of what I think are too timid, but the key point is that he succinctly explains the need to act soon to avoid a giant long-term problem.

…reforms are not intended to create budgetary balance in the short-run. Large-scale change cannot be implemented in the major programs without significant transition periods, which means the reforms need to be enacted soon to reduce costs in fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five years. Skeptics may say it’s pointless to worry about fiscal problems that are more than twenty years off. They’re wrong. …The result is a misallocation of resources that undermines long-term economic growth. …Entitlement reform is an absolute necessity, as will soon become evident to everyone, one way or another.

The recent testimony by Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute also is must reading.

In just two generations, the government…has effectively become an entitlements machine. …transfers have become a major component in the family budget of the average American household-and our dependence on these government transfers continues to rise. …Fifty years into our great social experiment of massive expansion of entitlement programs, there is ample evidence to indicate that the unintended consequences of this reconfigutation of American political and economic life have been major and adverse.

You should read the entire testimony, which is a comprehensive explanation of how entitlements are eroding American exceptionalism.

And I’ve previously shared some of Eberstadt’s work on the growing dependency crisis in America.

In effect, our “social capital” of self reliance and the work ethic is beingreplaced by an entitlement mentality.

At the risk of understatement, that won’t end well. Heck, I don’t know which part is more depressing, theever-growing burden of spending or the fact that more and more Americans think it’s okay to live off the labor of others.

All I can say for sure is that this combination never was, is not now, and never will be a recipe for national success.

Let’s conclude with some sage observations by George Melloan of theWall Street Journal. He summarizes the problem as being a combination of too much spending and too little political courage. Here’s the too-much-spending part.

…we seem richer than we actually are because we have borrowed so heavily from future generations. …the nation’s slow growth and rising debt are already reducing the opportunities for upward mobility. …Recent projections of the future cost of current government obligations certainly won’t relieve…people’s worries. Those promises have expanded far beyond any reasonable projection of the government’s ability to extract enough revenue to cover them. …The Congressional Budget Office projects a steady rise in “mandatory” (i.e., entitlement) costs as a share of GDP out into the distant future. …The upshot: Americans are deep in debt, mainly thanks to government excesses.

And here’s the too-little-political-courage part.

The only real answer is that the entitlement programs will have to be reformed, and sooner better than later, because the longer reform is postponed the greater the fiscal imbalance will become and the greater its drain will be… Donald Trump is out to lunch on this issue, as he is on most questions that require more than a fatuous sound-bite answer. As for Hillary…, forget about it.

Sigh, how depressing. It seems like America will be “Europeanized.”

For additional background on the issue of debt, unfunded liabilities, and present value, this video is a great tutorial.

P.S. I must have taken LSD or crack earlier this year. That’s the only logical explanation for saying I was optimistic about entitlement reform.

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Dan Mitchell: I’m horrified that big changes in demographics are going to lead to fiscal crises thanks to poorly designed entitlement programs.

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Demographic Decline = Fiscal Crisis

As a libertarian, I don’t care if couples have zero children or 10 children.

But as an economist, I’m horrified that big changes in demographics are going to lead to fiscal crises thanks to poorly designed entitlement programs.

Simply stated, modest-sized welfare states are sustainable if more and more new taxpayers enter the system to finance benefits for a burgeoning population of old people.

But that’s not happening any more. In most nations, traditional population pyramids are becoming population cylinders because of falling birthrates and increasing longevity.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that there is growing awareness the demographic changes are happening. Indeed, Damien Cave, Emma Bubola and have a big article on population decline in the New York Times.

All over the world, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in recorded history that will make first-birthday parties a rarer sight than funerals, and empty homes a common eyesore. Maternity wards are already shutting down in Italy. Ghost cities are appearing in northeastern China. Universities in South Korea can’t find enough students, and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of properties have been razed, with the land turned into parks.…Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time. …The strain of longer lives and low fertility, leading to fewer workers and more retirees, threatens to upend how societies are organized — around the notion that a surplus of young people will drive economies and help pay for the old. …The change may take decades, but once it starts, decline (just like growth) spirals exponentially. With fewer births, fewer girls grow up to have children, and if they have smaller families than their parents did — which is happening in dozens of countries — the drop starts to look like a rock thrown off a cliff. …according to projections by an international team of scientists published last year in The Lancet, 183 countries and territories — out of 195 — will have fertility rates below replacement level by 2100.

Plenty of interesting data, though remarkably little focus on the fiscal implications. Sort of like writing about 1943 France with almost no reference to World War II.

In any event, the article takes a closer look at the challenges in certain nations., including South Korea.

To goose the birthrate, the government has handed out baby bonuses. It increased child allowances and medical subsidies for fertility treatments and pregnancy. Health officials have showered newborns with gifts of beef, baby clothes and toys. The government is also building kindergartens and day care centers by the hundreds. In Seoul, every bus and subway car has pink seats reserved for pregnant women. But this month, Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki admitted that the government — which has spent more than $178 billion over the past 15 years encouraging women to have more babies — was not making enough progress.

I was struck by the statement from the Deputy Prime Minister that his nation “was not making enough progress”?

That’s a strange way of describing catastrophic decline in birthrates, as noted in the article.

South Korea’s fertility rate dropped to a record low of 0.92 in 2019 — less than one child per woman, the lowest rate in the developed world. Every month for the past 59 months, the total number of babies born in the country has dropped to a record depth.

Maybe, just maybe, government handouts are not the way to boost birthrates.

I’ll conclude by noting that the real problem is tax-and-transfer entitlement programs, not low birth rates.

Both Singapore and Hong Kong have extremely low birth rates, for instance, but they aren’t facing a huge fiscal crisis because they have very small welfare states and workers are obliged to save for their own retirement.

Other Asian jurisdictions, however, made the mistake of copying Western nations, meaning entitlement programs that become mathematically impossible when populations pyramids become population cylinders (or even upside-down pyramids!).

In addition to South Korea, Japan also faces a major challenge.

And the situation is very grim in Europe, even though birth rates haven’t fallen to the same degree (though the numbers is some Eastern European nations are staggeringly bad).

P.S. The United States isn’t far behind.

P.P.S. We know the answer to this crisis, but far too many politicians are focused on trying to make matters worse rather than better.

P.P.P.S. You can read my two-part series on this topic here and here.

Security from CRADLE TO GRAVE never quite works out!!!

Free to Choose Part 4: From Cradle to Grave Featuring Milton Friedman

I’m like a broken record when it comes to entitlement spending. I’ve explained, ad nauseam, that programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and Social Security must be reformed.

In part, genuine entitlement reform is a good idea because you get better economic performance when you replace tax-and-transfer schemes with private savings and competitive markets.

Demographic 2030But reform also is desperately needed because ofchanging demographics. Simply stated, leaving all the entitlement programs on autopilot is a recipe for a Greek-style fiscal crisis.

If you want a rigorous explanation of the issue, my colleague Jeff Miron has a must-read monograph on the topic. You should peruse the entire study, but here’s the key conclusion if you’re pressed for time.

…this paper projects fiscal imbalance as of every year between 1965 and 2014, using data-supported assumptions about gross domestic product (GDP) growth, revenue, and trends in mandatory spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs. The projections reveal that the United States has faced a growing fiscal imbalance since the early 1970s, largely as a consequence of continuous growth in mandatory spending. As of 2014, the fiscal imbalance stands at $117.9 trillion, with few signs of future improvement even if GDP growth accelerates or tax revenues increase relative to historic norms. Thus the only viable way to restore fiscal balance is to scale back mandatory spending policies, particularly on large health care programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Jeff’s report is filled with sobering charts. I’ve picked out three that deserve special attention.

First, here’s a look back in history at the growing fiscal burden of entitlement programs.

Second, here’s a look forward at how the fiscal burden of entitlement programs will get even worse in coming decades.

Keep in mind, by the way, that the two above charts only show the fiscal burden of entitlement programs (sometimes referred to as “mandatory spending” since the laws “mandate” that money be given to anyone who is “entitled” based on various criteria).

When you add discretionary (annually appropriated) spending to the mix, as well as interest that is paid on the national debt, the numbers get even more grim.

Jeff adds everything together and shows, for each year between 1965 and 2014, the “present value” of the gap between what the government is promising to spend and how much revenue it is projected to collect.

These numbers are especially horrific because “present value” is a measure of how much money the government would have to somehow obtain and set aside in order to have a nest egg capable of offsetting future deficits.

Needless to say, the federal government did not have access to $118 trillion (yes, trillion with a “t”) in 2014. And if there were updated numbers for 2015 and 2016 (which would probably be even higher than $118 trillion), the federal government still wouldn’t have access to that amount of money either.

Especially since the total annual output of the American economy is about $18 trillion.

So now you can understand why international bureaucracies like the IMF, BIS, and OECD estimate that the fiscal challenge in the United States may be even bigger than the problems in decrepit welfare states such as France and Italy.

Let’s get another perspective on the issue. James Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center warns about the scope of the problem.

Despite what presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been saying on the campaign trail, the need to reform the nation’s major entitlement programs cannot be wished away. The primary cause of the nation’s fiscal problems, now and in the future, is the rapid rise in entitlement spending. In 1970, spending on Social Security and the major health care entitlement programs was 3.6 percent of GDP. In 2015, spending on these programs was 10.3 percent of GDP. By 2040, CBO expects spending on these programs to reach 14.2 percent of GDP. …entitlement reform is needed to put the federal government’s finances on a more stable foundation.

He outlines his preferred reforms, some of which I heartily embrace and some of what I think are too timid, but the key point is that he succinctly explains the need to act soon to avoid a giant long-term problem.

…reforms are not intended to create budgetary balance in the short-run. Large-scale change cannot be implemented in the major programs without significant transition periods, which means the reforms need to be enacted soon to reduce costs in fifteen, twenty, and twenty-five years. Skeptics may say it’s pointless to worry about fiscal problems that are more than twenty years off. They’re wrong. …The result is a misallocation of resources that undermines long-term economic growth. …Entitlement reform is an absolute necessity, as will soon become evident to everyone, one way or another.

The recent testimony by Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute also is must reading.

In just two generations, the government…has effectively become an entitlements machine. …transfers have become a major component in the family budget of the average American household-and our dependence on these government transfers continues to rise. …Fifty years into our great social experiment of massive expansion of entitlement programs, there is ample evidence to indicate that the unintended consequences of this reconfigutation of American political and economic life have been major and adverse.

You should read the entire testimony, which is a comprehensive explanation of how entitlements are eroding American exceptionalism.

And I’ve previously shared some of Eberstadt’s work on the growing dependency crisis in America.

In effect, our “social capital” of self reliance and the work ethic is beingreplaced by an entitlement mentality.

At the risk of understatement, that won’t end well. Heck, I don’t know which part is more depressing, theever-growing burden of spending or the fact that more and more Americans think it’s okay to live off the labor of others.

All I can say for sure is that this combination never was, is not now, and never will be a recipe for national success.

Let’s conclude with some sage observations by George Melloan of theWall Street Journal. He summarizes the problem as being a combination of too much spending and too little political courage. Here’s the too-much-spending part.

…we seem richer than we actually are because we have borrowed so heavily from future generations. …the nation’s slow growth and rising debt are already reducing the opportunities for upward mobility. …Recent projections of the future cost of current government obligations certainly won’t relieve…people’s worries. Those promises have expanded far beyond any reasonable projection of the government’s ability to extract enough revenue to cover them. …The Congressional Budget Office projects a steady rise in “mandatory” (i.e., entitlement) costs as a share of GDP out into the distant future. …The upshot: Americans are deep in debt, mainly thanks to government excesses.

And here’s the too-little-political-courage part.

The only real answer is that the entitlement programs will have to be reformed, and sooner better than later, because the longer reform is postponed the greater the fiscal imbalance will become and the greater its drain will be… Donald Trump is out to lunch on this issue, as he is on most questions that require more than a fatuous sound-bite answer. As for Hillary…, forget about it.

Sigh, how depressing. It seems like America will be “Europeanized.”

For additional background on the issue of debt, unfunded liabilities, and present value, this video is a great tutorial.

P.S. I must have taken LSD or crack earlier this year. That’s the only logical explanation for saying I was optimistic about entitlement reform.

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“Severely Disabled Man Suffers Consequences of Paying Americans Not to Work”

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This morning I pointed out the similarities of Rolling Stones song HANG FIRE to what President Biden is doing by incentivizing staying home and being a lazy slob!

President Joe Biden rejects the notion that generous COVID-19 relief provisions, and state and local aid, create disincentives for work. Pictured: Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on the dais behind him, April 28, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Melina Mara-Pool/Getty Images)

“Experts” predicted 1 million jobs would be created in April. The actual number fell far short, at 266,000. Republicans warned that overly generous COVID-19 relief benefits create a disincentive to work.

The day before this disappointing jobs report, Bloomberg wrote:

In earnings calls and business surveys, executives often blame stimulus checks and generous unemployment benefits for hampering hiring efforts. …

Friday’s employment report, which is projected to show the economy added 1 million jobs in April, should offer new insight into this mismatch and whether it’s deterring growth.

Want to keep up with the 24/7 news cycle? Want to know the most important stories of the day for conservatives? Need news you can trust? Subscribe to The Daily Signal’s email newsletter. Learn more >>

When the numbers came in, Biden administration officials lacked no shortage of excuses. Some potential workers, they argued, feared going back to work because of COVID-19; many schools had still yet to resume in-school learning, particularly burdensome for single parents; we’re still early in the bounce back from the COVID-19-stricken economy; one month’s worth of numbers does not a story tell; and employers just need to raise wages.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh urged perspective: “Well, you know, under normal circumstances, and certainly we’re not living in normal circumstances, the 266,000 job gain a month is a good number. Unfortunately, we’re still in the midst of a pandemic.”

President Joe Biden rejected the elephant-in-the-room possible explanation for the disappointingly low April job numbers—that the generous provisions in the COVID-19 relief packages, coupled with state and local aid, create a disincentive for people to go back to work. Biden dismissed “loose talk that Americans just don’t want to work. … The data shows that more workers are looking for jobs, and many can’t find them.”

>> Watch “Severely Disabled Man Suffers Consequences of Paying Americans Not to Work”:

But Bloomberg wrote, “Anyone who previously made less than $32,000 per year is better off financially in the near term receiving unemployment benefits, according to economists at Bank of America.”

Blog writers for the libertarian Cato Institute wrote: “Combined with state unemployment benefits, around 37 percent of workers can currently make more unemployed than in work. A low-income worker in Massachusetts previously earning $535 per week faced a pre-pandemic replacement rate of unemployment insurance benefits to earnings of 48 percent ($257). Now, the same worker would obtain benefits worth 104 percent of their pre-recession earnings ($557).”

But not to worry because, writes The Washington Post, a Labor Department spokesperson says his office “has not seen evidence” that the COVID-19 relief benefits incentivize people not to work.

Since when does the Biden administration require “data” or “evidence”?

Where is the evidence that a $15 minimum wagewill do more good than harm, given that the overwhelming consensus among economists is that minimum wage loss hurt the unskilled?

Where is the evidence that a $2.4 trillion “infrastructure investment” plan will do more good than harm, given the necessary massive tax increases?

Where is the evidence that universal pre-K for the poor will improve results for K-12, given the “fade out” effect that shows no long-term benefit?

There is, however, a great deal of evidence that burdening the economy with more taxes and regulations hurt growth. Eight years into the New Deal plan designed to rescue the economy from the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s secretary of the treasury, Henry Morgenthau, wrote:

We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. … I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. … I say after eight years of this Administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started … and an enormous debt to boot!

But as long as politicians, in the name of compassion, take money from one party to give to another; borrow money to be paid later with interest; and print money that ultimately triggers inflation, who needs evidence?

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Many  academic studies show that extending unemployment benefits lead to more joblessness!!

Washington is in the middle of another debate about redistributing money.

But that’s hardly newsworthy. Politics, after all, is basically a never-ending racket in which insiders buy votes and accumulate power with other people’s money.

The current debate about extending unemployment benefits is remarkable, though (at least from an economic perspective), because certain politicians want to give people money on the condition that they don’t get a job. Needless to say, that leads to a very perverse incentive structure.

There is a problem with joblessness, to be sure, but it’s misguided to think that extending unemployment benefits is the compassionate response.

Senator Paul and I wrote a column for USA Today about a better way of helping the unemployed. Looking at the empirical evidence, we argue that it’s time to unleash the private sector by reducing the burden of government.

We started with an assessment of the labor market, which has been dismal under Obama’s reign.

The nation is enduring the weakest recovery since the Great Depression, 11 million people remain unemployed, and millions more have dropped out of the labor force. For minorities, it’s even worse. The black unemployment rate is more than twice that of whites. And the weak job market means that even those who are employed are having a hard time climbing the economic ladder.

We explain that more unemployment benefits is a misguided approach.

There’s a lot of talk about helping those down on their luck, but there’s a big divide on the best approach. Our view is that America needs a growth agenda based on reducing the burden of government. The unemployed need a strong job market, not endless handouts that create dependency. …There’s an understandable desire in Washington to “do something,” and extending benefits once again certainly is the easy route for policy makers. But if we are serious about keeping workers out of the long-term unemployment trap, we must have a debate about which policies cause unemployment and which policies create jobs.

The column cites many of the academic studies showing that unemployment benefits lead to more joblessness.

I’ve made this point during television interviews, and this Michael Ramirez cartoon echoes our thinking in a more entertaining fashion.

And we definitely can’t overlook this superb Wizard-of-Id parody. It doesn’t focus specifically on unemployment benefits, but it makes a great point about labor supply incentives.

But let’s get back to the column. Our main goal is to identify the types of policies that would generate jobs and growth.

Simply stated, genuine compassion should be defined by helping people get back to work so they don’t need to be wards of the state.

And easing the burden of government is the best way to make that happen. Our column looks at some evidence – from both overseas and here at home – about the policies that are associated with better economic performance.

Big government is responsible for today’s unemployment situation. …Since President Obama was elected, we have spent $560 billion on unemployment benefits. It’s likely many more jobs would have been created had the government not diverted that money from the economy’s productive sector. …Instead of copying stagnant European nations with bigger public sectors, we should learn from countries that have achieved better performance by lowering the burden of government. Singapore and Hong Kong are examples of jurisdictions with small governments and free markets that enjoy strong and sustained growth with very low levels of joblessness. …look at Canada, which has significantly boosted its jobs market with pro-growth reforms, or Switzerland, which has cemented its traditionally strong labor markets with reforms to control the growth of government. This is not a partisan argument. Or at least it shouldn’t be. The United States enjoyed strong levels of job creation during both the Reagan and Clinton years. But in both cases, public policy was largely the same, featuring an increase in economic freedom.

Some people may wonder whether Reagan and Clinton belong in the same category.

Well, as illustrated by this chart, they both presided over periods with impressive job creation.

And they both presided over periods with generally good economic policy.

Reagan moved the country in the right direction on purpose. Clinton, by contrast, may have wanted to move the nation in the other direction, but he was unsuccessful.Indeed, the evidence is very strong that the overall burden of government fell during his tenure.

Whether by accident or design, America needs another period of free markets and shrinking government.

For further details on the recipe for good policy, here’s the video I narrated for the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, which explains the conditions that lead to strong and sustained growth.

Free Markets and Small Government Produce Prosperity

Uploaded on Feb 17, 2009

Now that the so-called stimulus has been enacted, hopefully policy makers will turn their attention to policies that actually improve economic performance. This Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation video reviews the key finding in the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World and explains that, contrary to the policies of Presidents Bush and Obama, smaller government and free markets are the way to boost economic growth. For more information: http://www.freedomandprosperity.org

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P.S. I’m obviously a fan of Senator Rand Paul. Not only does he choose good people as op-ed partners, he also gave me public credit for a good Obamacare joke.

P.P.S. On a separate topic, I wrote in December 2012 that the strongest evidence for media bias is which stories get covered. A perfect example is that journalists already have given 17 times as much coverage of the Chris Christie “bridgegate” scandal as they gave to the IRS scandal over the past six months

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The Upside-Down Economics of Subsidized Unemployment

Back in 2010, I applauded Paul Krugman for acknowledging that government unemployment benefits can encourage joblessness.

And I even cited Krugman in this 2012 debate on the topic.

We’re debating this issue again today, but it’s an even bigger problem because politicians in Washington have added a special bonus payment for people who stay unemployed.

So we’re naturally finding that people are more reluctant to work, which is a rational choice for many of them since they’re getting more money for sitting on their butts.

So if Krugman recognized back in 2009 that regular-sized unemployment benefits lead to more joblessness, he must be even more worried about today’s super-sized unemployment benefits.

But there’s a catch. Krugman made his sensible observations on this issue in a textbook when he was still an academic economist, back when he felt some professional obligation to be rational and pay attention to the academic evidence and empirical research.

Today, he’s an ideologue and polemicist. So we get nonsense like this column in the New York Times.

…the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the U.S. economy added only 266,000 jobs in April, far short of consensus expectations that we’d gain around a million new jobs. Was this evidence that the economy really is being held back because we’re “paying people not to work”?No. For one thing, you should never make much of one month’s numbers, especially in an economy still distorted by the pandemic. …Also, if unemployment benefits were holding job growth back, you’d expect the worst performance in low-wage industries, where benefits are large relative to wages. …on the face of it the data don’t support an unemployment-benefits story. So what actually happened? We don’t know. Maybe it was a statistical aberration.

For what it’s worth, I prefer the sober-minded analysis available in editorials from the Wall Street Journal.

Such as this one.

Employers nationwide have complained for months that Washington’s $300-a-week bonus has made it harder to find willing workers. Yet Mr. Biden brushed aside the complaints, saying he and his staff “don’t see much evidence” that the payments are a “major factor.” …The perverse incentive of the bonus is clear, and the evidence goes beyond the anecdotes from tens of thousands of employers. …Bank of America economist Joseph Song notes that any worker earning less than $32,000 annually would get a raise by going on unemployment… The President intended his remarks to depict his Administration as the driver of job growth instead of its main hindrance. It was a tall order. But the bright side is that his urgent appearance showed that more Americans are figuring out that when the government pays people not to work, millions choose not to.

The good news is that some governors are opting out.

Here are some excerpts from a report in the Washington Post.

An unexpected slowdown in hiring nationwide has prompted some Republican governors to start slashing jobless benefits in their states, hoping that the loss of generous federal aid might force more people to try to return to work. …Arkansas on Friday became the latest to announce plans to cancel the extra benefits, joining Montana and South Carolina earlier in the week… Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signaled to local reporters that the state could soon follow suit, while Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is considering the same.

I’m tempted to comment about the Post‘s usual bias (saying GOP governors want to “slash” when they’re simply proposing to return to regular-sized benefits).

But let’s stick to the topic.

Here’s another interview on the issue, but it’s about the current fight rather than the Obama-era fight.

I’m especially concerned, as I noted in the interview, that bad government policy may erode the work ethic.

I’ll close with a comment about the fight we had during the Obama years. Back then, the battle revolved around extended unemployment benefits rather than turbo-charged benefits.

Republicans eventually prevailed in blocking the extended benefits. So what happened? As you might expect, there was an increase in employment.

P.S. I imagine this story from Michigan and this example from Ohio will ring a bell with many people because they have some relative or buddy who also has used government benefits as an excuse to stay unemployed.

P.P.S. Senator Rand Paul and I wrote about this issue back in 2014.

P.P.P.S. For some unintentional humor, Nancy Pelosi actually argued that the economy is stronger when people are paid not to work.

 

 

Many  academic studies show that extending unemployment benefits lead to more joblessness!!

Washington is in the middle of another debate about redistributing money.

But that’s hardly newsworthy. Politics, after all, is basically a never-ending racket in which insiders buy votes and accumulate power with other people’s money.

The current debate about extending unemployment benefits is remarkable, though (at least from an economic perspective), because certain politicians want to give people money on the condition that they don’t get a job. Needless to say, that leads to a very perverse incentive structure.

There is a problem with joblessness, to be sure, but it’s misguided to think that extending unemployment benefits is the compassionate response.

Senator Paul and I wrote a column for USA Today about a better way of helping the unemployed. Looking at the empirical evidence, we argue that it’s time to unleash the private sector by reducing the burden of government.

We started with an assessment of the labor market, which has been dismal under Obama’s reign.

The nation is enduring the weakest recovery since the Great Depression, 11 million people remain unemployed, and millions more have dropped out of the labor force. For minorities, it’s even worse. The black unemployment rate is more than twice that of whites. And the weak job market means that even those who are employed are having a hard time climbing the economic ladder.

We explain that more unemployment benefits is a misguided approach.

There’s a lot of talk about helping those down on their luck, but there’s a big divide on the best approach. Our view is that America needs a growth agenda based on reducing the burden of government. The unemployed need a strong job market, not endless handouts that create dependency. …There’s an understandable desire in Washington to “do something,” and extending benefits once again certainly is the easy route for policy makers. But if we are serious about keeping workers out of the long-term unemployment trap, we must have a debate about which policies cause unemployment and which policies create jobs.

The column cites many of the academic studies showing that unemployment benefits lead to more joblessness.

I’ve made this point during television interviews, and this Michael Ramirez cartoon echoes our thinking in a more entertaining fashion.

And we definitely can’t overlook this superb Wizard-of-Id parody. It doesn’t focus specifically on unemployment benefits, but it makes a great point about labor supply incentives.

But let’s get back to the column. Our main goal is to identify the types of policies that would generate jobs and growth.

Simply stated, genuine compassion should be defined by helping people get back to work so they don’t need to be wards of the state.

And easing the burden of government is the best way to make that happen. Our column looks at some evidence – from both overseas and here at home – about the policies that are associated with better economic performance.

Big government is responsible for today’s unemployment situation. …Since President Obama was elected, we have spent $560 billion on unemployment benefits. It’s likely many more jobs would have been created had the government not diverted that money from the economy’s productive sector. …Instead of copying stagnant European nations with bigger public sectors, we should learn from countries that have achieved better performance by lowering the burden of government. Singapore and Hong Kong are examples of jurisdictions with small governments and free markets that enjoy strong and sustained growth with very low levels of joblessness. …look at Canada, which has significantly boosted its jobs market with pro-growth reforms, or Switzerland, which has cemented its traditionally strong labor markets with reforms to control the growth of government. This is not a partisan argument. Or at least it shouldn’t be. The United States enjoyed strong levels of job creation during both the Reagan and Clinton years. But in both cases, public policy was largely the same, featuring an increase in economic freedom.

Some people may wonder whether Reagan and Clinton belong in the same category.

Well, as illustrated by this chart, they both presided over periods with impressive job creation.

And they both presided over periods with generally good economic policy.

Reagan moved the country in the right direction on purpose. Clinton, by contrast, may have wanted to move the nation in the other direction, but he was unsuccessful.Indeed, the evidence is very strong that the overall burden of government fell during his tenure.

Whether by accident or design, America needs another period of free markets and shrinking government.

For further details on the recipe for good policy, here’s the video I narrated for the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, which explains the conditions that lead to strong and sustained growth.

Free Markets and Small Government Produce Prosperity

Uploaded on Feb 17, 2009

Now that the so-called stimulus has been enacted, hopefully policy makers will turn their attention to policies that actually improve economic performance. This Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation video reviews the key finding in the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of the World and explains that, contrary to the policies of Presidents Bush and Obama, smaller government and free markets are the way to boost economic growth. For more information: http://www.freedomandprosperity.org

 

__________________

P.S. I’m obviously a fan of Senator Rand Paul. Not only does he choose good people as op-ed partners, he also gave me public credit for a good Obamacare joke.

P.P.S. On a separate topic, I wrote in December 2012 that the strongest evidence for media bias is which stories get covered. A perfect example is that journalists already have given 17 times as much coverage of the Chris Christie “bridgegate” scandal as they gave to the IRS scandal over the past six months

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Dan Mitchell article “A Practical Reason to Oppose Wealth Taxation

A Practical Reason to Oppose Wealth Taxation

As an economist, I strongly oppose the wealth tax (as well as other forms of double taxation) because it’s foolish to impose additional layers of tax that penalize saving and investment.

Especially since there’s such a strong relationship between investment and worker compensation.

The politicians may tell us they’re going to “soak the rich,” but the rest of us wind up getting wet.

That being said, there are also administrative reasons why wealth taxation is a fool’s game. One of them, which I mentioned as part of a recent tax debate, is the immense headache of trying to measure wealth every single year.

Yes, that’s not difficult if someone has assets such as stock in General Motors or Amazon. Bureaucrats from the IRS can simply go to a financial website and check the value for any given day.

But the value of many assets is very subjective (patents, royalties, art, heirlooms, etc), and that will create a never-ending source of conflict between taxpayers and the IRS if that awful levy is ever imposed.

Let’s look at a recent dispute involving another form of destructive double taxation. The New York Times has an interesting story about a costly dispute involving the death tax to be imposed on Michael Jackson’s family.

Michael Jackson died in 2009… But there was another matter that has taken more than seven years to litigate: Jackson’s tax bill with the Internal Revenue Service, in which the government and the estate held vastly different views about what Jackson’s name and likeness were worth when he died.The I.R.S. thought they were worth $161 million. …Judge Mark V. Holmes of United States Tax Court ruled that Jackson’s name and likeness were worth $4.2 million, rejecting many of the I.R.S.’s arguments. The decision will significantly lower the estate’s tax burden… In a statement, John Branca and John McClain, co-executors of the Jackson estate, called the decision “a huge, unambiguous victory for Michael Jackson’s children.”

I’m glad the kids won this battle.

Michael Jackson paid tax when he first earned his money. Those earnings shouldn’t be taxed again simply because he died.

But the point I want to focus on today is that a wealth tax would require these kinds of fights every single year.

Given all the lawyers and accountants this will require, that goes well beyond adding insult to injury. Lots of time and money will need to be spent in order to (hopefully) protect households from a confiscatory tax that should never exist.

P.S. The potential administrative nightmare of wealth taxation, along with Biden’s proposal to tax unrealized capital gains at death, help to explain why the White House is proposing to turbo-charge the IRS’s budget with an additional $80 billion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Visuals that Explain Why Higher Corporate Income Tax Rates Are Bad for America

I have a four-part series (here, here, here, and here) about the conceptual downsides of Joe Biden’s class-warfare approach to tax policy.

Now it’s time to focus on the component parts of his agenda. Today’s column will review his plan for a big increase in the corporate tax rate. But since I’ve written about corporate tax rates over and over and over again, we’re going to approach this issue is a new way.

I’m going to share five visuals that (hopefully) make a compelling case why higher tax rates on companies would be a big mistake.

Visual #1

One thing every student should learn from an introductory economics class is that corporations don’t actually pay tax. Instead, businesses collect taxes that are actually borne by workers, consumers, and investors.

There’s lots of debate in the profession, of course, about which group bears what share of the tax. But there’s universal agreement that higher taxes lead to less investment, which leads to less productivity, which leads to lower pay.

Here’s a depiction of the relationship of corporate taxes and worker pay.

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Visual #2

The previous image explains the theory. Now it’s time for some evidence.

Here’s a look at how much faster wages have grown in countries with low corporate tax rates compared to nations with high corporate tax rates.

Biden, for reasons beyond my comprehension, wants America on the red line.

And his staff economists apparently don’t understand (or don’t care about) the link between investment and wages.

Visual #3

Here’s some more evidence.

And it comes from an unexpected source, the pro-tax Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD).

Even economists at that Paris-based bureaucracy have produced studies confirming that lower tax rates lead to higher disposable income for people.

Needless to say, if lower tax rates lead to more disposable income, then higher tax rates will lead to less disposable income.

We should have learned during the Obama years that ordinary people pay the price when politicians practice class warfare.

Visual #4

It’s very bad news that Biden wants a big increase in the corporate tax rate, but let’s not forget that the IRS double-taxes corporate income (i.e., that same income is subject to a second layer of tax when shareholders receive dividends).

The combined effect, as shown in this visual, is that the United States will have the dubious honor of having the highest effective corporate tax rate in the entire developed world.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think that’s a recipe for jobs and investment in America.

Visual #5

The economic damage of higher corporate tax rates means that there is less taxable income (i.e., we need to remember the Laffer Curve).

Will the damage be so extensive, causing taxable income to fall so much, that the IRS collects less revenue with a higher tax rate?

We’ll learn the answer to that question over time, but we have some very strong evidence from the IMF that lower corporate tax rates don’t lead to less revenue. As you can see from this chart, revenues held steady as tax rates plummeted over the past few decades.

In other words, lower rates led to enough additional economic activity that governments have collected just as much money with lower tax rates. But now Biden wants to run this experiment in reverse.

It’s possible the government will collect more revenue, of course, but only at a very high cost to workers, consumers, and shareholders.

By the way, there’s OECD data showing the exact same thing.

Those pictures probably tell you everything you need to know about this issue.

But let’s add some more analysis. The Wall Street Journal opined today on Biden’s class-warfare agenda. Here are some of the key passages from the editorial.

The bill for President Biden’s agenda is coming due, starting with Wednesday’s proposal for the largest corporate tax increase in decades. …Mr. Biden’s corporate increase amounts to the restoration of the Obama-era corporate tax burden, only much more so. …Mr. Biden wants to raise the corporate rate back up to 28%, but that’s the least of his proposals. He also wants to add penalties that would make inversions punitive, and he’d impose a global minimum corporate tax of 21%. This would shoot the tax burden on U.S. companies back toward the top of the developed world list. …The larger Biden goal is to end global tax competition… “The United States can lead the world to end the race to the bottom on corporate tax rates,” says the White House fact sheet. Mr. Biden says he wants “other countries to adopt strong minimum taxes on corporations” so nations like Ireland can no longer compete for capital with lower tax rates. This has long been the dream of the French and Germans, working through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. …All of this is in addition to the looming Biden tax increases on dividends, capital gains and other investment income. …Mr. Biden’s corporate tax increases will hit the middle class hard—in the value of their 401(k)s, the size of their pay packets, and what they pay for goods and services.

Amen.

Let’s conclude with some gallows humor.

This meme shows how some of our leftist friends will celebrate if the tax increase is imposed.

P.S. Here’s a depressing final observation. Decades of experience have led me to conclude that many folks on the left support class-warfare tax policy because they are primarily motivated by a spiteful desire to punish success rather than provide upward mobility for the poor.

Free-market economics meets free-market policies at The Heritage Foundation’s Tenth Anniversary dinner in 1983. Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman and his wife Rose with President Ronald Reagan and Heritage President Ed Feulner.

Free-market economics meets free-market policies at The Heritage Foundation’s Tenth Anniversary dinner in 1983. Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman and his wife Rose with President Ronald Reagan and Heritage President Ed Feulner.

Since the passing of Milton Friedman who was my favorite economist, I have been reading the works of Daniel Mitchell and he quotes Milton Friedman a lot, and you can reach Dan’s website here.

Mitchell in February 2011.
Wikipedia noted concerning Dan:

 

Mitchell’s career as an economist began in the United States Senate, working for Oregon Senator Bob Packwood and the Senate Finance Committee. He also served on the transition team of President-Elect Bush and Vice President-Elect Quayle in 1988. In 1990, he began work at the Heritage Foundation. At Heritage, Mitchell worked on tax policy issues and began advocating for income tax reform.[1]

In 2007, Mitchell left the Heritage Foundation, and joined the Cato Institute as a Senior Fellow. Mitchell continues to work in tax policy, and deals with issues such as the flat tax and international tax competition.[2]

In addition to his Cato Institute responsibilities, Mitchell co-founded the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, an organization formed to protect international tax competition.[1]

 

 

January 27, 2021

President Biden, c/o The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

The federal government debt is growing so much that it is endangering us because if things keep going like they are now we will not have any money left for the national defense because we are so far in debt as a nation. We have been spending so much on our welfare state through food stamps and other programs that I am worrying that many of our citizens are becoming more dependent on government and in many cases they are losing their incentive to work hard because of the welfare trap the government has put in place. Other nations in Europe have gone down this road and we see what mess this has gotten them in. People really are losing their faith in big government and they want more liberty back. It seems to me we have to get back to the founding  principles that made our country great.  We also need to realize that a big government will encourage waste and corruption. The recent scandals in our government have proved my point. In fact, the jokes you made at Ohio State about possibly auditing them are not so funny now that reality shows how the IRS was acting more like a monster out of control. Also raising taxes on the job creators is a very bad idea too. The Laffer Curve clearly demonstrates that when the tax rates are raised many individuals will move their investments to places where they will not get taxed as much.

What did we learn from the Laffer Curve in the 1980’s? Lowering top tax rate from 70% to 28% from 1980 to 1988 and those earning over $200,000 paid 99 billion in taxes instead of 19 billion!!!!

One of my frustrating missions in life is to educate policy makers on the Laffer Curve.

This means teaching folks on the left that tax policy affects incentives to earn and report taxable income. As such, I try to explain, this means it is wrong to assume a simplistic linear relationship between tax rates and tax revenue. If you double tax rates, for instance, you won’t double tax revenue.

But it also means teaching folks on the right that it is wildly wrong to claim that “all tax cuts pay for themselves” or that “tax increases always mean less revenue.” Those results occur in rare circumstances, but the real lesson of the Laffer Curve is that some types of tax policy changes will result in changes to taxable income, and those shifts in taxable income will partially offset the impact of changes in tax rates.

However, even though both sides may need some education, it seems that the folks on the left are harder to teach – probably because the Laffer Curve is more of a threat to their core beliefs.

If you explain to a conservative politician that a goofy tax cut (such as a new loophole to help housing) won’t boost the economy and that the static revenue estimate from the bureaucrats at the Joint Committee on Taxation is probably right, they usually understand.

But liberal politicians get very agitated if you tell them that higher marginal tax rates on investors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners probably won’t generate much tax revenue because of incentives (and ability) to reduce taxable income.

To be fair, though, some folks on the left are open to real-world evidence. And this IRS data from the 1980s is particularly effective at helping them understand the high cost of class-warfare taxation.

There’s lots of data here, but pay close attention to the columns on the right and see how much income tax was collected from the rich in 1980, when the top tax rate was 70 percent, and how much was collected from the rich in 1988, when the top tax rate was 28 percent.

The key takeaway is that the IRS collected fives times as much income tax from the rich when the tax rate was far lower. This isn’t just an example of the Laffer Curve. It’s the Laffer Curve on steroids and it’s one of those rare examples of a tax cut paying for itself.

Folks on the right, however, should be careful about over-interpreting this data. There were lots of factors that presumably helped generate these results, including inflation, population growth, and some of Reagan’s other policies. So we don’t know whether the lower tax rates on the rich caused revenues to double, triple, or quadruple. Ask five economists and you’ll get nine answers.

But we do know that the rich paid much more when the tax rate was much lower.

This is an important lesson because Obama wants to run this experiment in reverse. He hasn’t proposed to push the top tax rate up to 70 percent, thank goodness, but the combined effect of his class-warfare policies would mean a substantial increase in marginal tax rates.

We don’t know the revenue-maximizing point of the Laffer Curve, but Obama seems determined to push tax rates so high that the government collects less revenue. Not that we should be surprised. During the 2008 campaign, he actually said he would like higher tax rates even if the government collected less revenue.

That’s class warfare on steroids, and it definitely belong on the list of the worst things Obama has ever said.

But I don’t care about the revenue-maximizing point of the Laffer Curve. Policy makers should set tax rates so we’re at the growth-maximizing level instead.

To broaden the understanding of the Laffer Curve, share these three videos with your friends and colleagues.

This first video explains the theory of the Laffer Curve.

The Laffer Curve, Part I: Understanding the Theory

Uploaded on Jan 28, 2008

The Laffer Curve charts a relationship between tax rates and tax revenue. While the theory behind the Laffer Curve is widely accepted, the concept has become very controversial because politicians on both sides of the debate exaggerate. This video shows the middle ground between those who claim “all tax cuts pay for themselves” and those who claim tax policy has no impact on economic performance. This video, focusing on the theory of the Laffer Curve, is Part I of a three-part series. Part II reviews evidence of Laffer-Curve responses. Part III discusses how the revenue-estimating process in Washington can be improved. For more information please visit the Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s web site: http://www.freedomandprosperity.org

  • Category

    News & Politics

    _____________________________________

    This second video reviews some of the real-world evidence.

    The Laffer Curve, Part II: Reviewing the Evidence

    Uploaded on Feb 24, 2008

    This video reviews real-world evidence showing that changes in marginal tax rates can have a significant impact on taxable income, thus leading to substantial amounts of revenue feedback. In a few cases, tax-rate reductions even “pay for themselves,” though the key lesson is the more modest point that pro-growth changes in tax policy will have a positive impact on economic performance and that good tax cuts therefore do not “cost” the government much in terms of foregone tax revenue.

    This video is second installment of a three-part series. Part I reviews theoretical relationship between tax rates, taxable income, and tax revenue. Part III discusses how the revenue-estimating process in Washington can be improved. For more information please visit the Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s web site: http://www.freedomandprosperity.org.

    ___________________

    And this video exposes the biased an inaccurate “static scoring” of the Joint Committee on Taxation.

    The Laffer Curve, Part III: Dynamic Scoring

    Uploaded on May 28, 2008

    A video by CF&P Foundation that builds on the discussion of theory in Part I and evidence in Part II, this concluding video in the series on the Laffer Curve explains how the Joint Committee on Taxation’s revenue-estimating process is based on the absurd theory that changes in tax policy – even dramatic reforms such as a flat tax – do not effect economic growth. In other words, the current system assumes the Laffer Curve does not exist. Because of congressional budget rules, this leads to a bias for tax increases and against tax cuts. The video explains that “static scoring” should be replaced with “dynamic scoring” so that lawmakers will have more accurate information when making decisions about tax policy. For more information please visit the Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s web site: http://www.freedomandprosperity.org.

    ________________

    And once we educate everybody about the Laffer Curve, we can then concentrate on teaching them about the equivalent relationship on the spending side of the fiscal ledger, the Rahn Curve.

_____________

Thank you so much for your time. I know how valuable it is. I also appreciate the fine family that you have and your commitment as a father and a husband.

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733,

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Lessons about Trump and Trade by Dan Mitchell

Lessons about Trump and Trade

Like President Reagan, I believe in free trade rather than protectionism.

So you won’t be surprised that I agree with the message in this video

To elaborate, one of the big lessons of the Trump era is that he undermined his good policies – such as tax reform – by imposing higher taxes on global trade.

Sadly, he didn’t realize that a “trade deficit” is largely an irrelevant statistic. Indeed, it’s merely the flip side of having a capital surplus.

To state the obvious, it’s not a bad thing when foreigners decide they want to invest in the United States economy. Heck, it’s a good thing, a sign of economic strength.

Professor Douglas Irwin of Dartmouth made the same point, and many additional points, in a column for the Wall Street Journallate last year.

After four years, what have we learned? Many things, but especially that old economic truths still have value: Tariffs don’t reduce the trade deficit. …Economists have long pointed out that the trade deficit is driven by macroeconomic factors, particularly international capital flows. …The merchandise trade deficit was $864 billion in 2019, more than $100 billion higher than in 2016. …Tariffs are paid by consumers, destroy jobs and hurt the economy. Mr. Trump insisted that China would pay for the 15% to 25% duties that he imposed on $300 billion of its exports. In fact, the tariffs were passed on to American consumers, who paid more… Take steel. Higher prices might have saved some jobs in the steel industry, but..steel protection is a job-destroying policy. Economists at the Federal Reserve found that the steel and aluminum tariffs reduced overall employment in manufacturing by 75,000 workers.

But destroying jobs was just one negative effect of protectionism.

We also got more corruption, as the Wall Street Journal opined.

…it’s time to point out one unsightly effect of the Trump tariffs: expanding the D.C. swamp. …As Mr. Trump’s tariffs began to bite, Congress sent hundreds of letters to the USTR, supporting specific tariff exclusions. …Rep. Steny Hoyer signed a letter, “on behalf of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus,” asking for an exclusion on smoke alarms. North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis sought one for Honda’s lawn mower flywheels. For Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, it was BedJet’s “ultra-thin adjustable bed ‘device.’” For Congressman Doug Collins, Home Depot’s light fixtures. For Sen. Patty Murray, empty coffee K-cup pods. Some of these exclusions were granted, and many weren’t. It’s difficult to know if lobbying by Congress made a difference… One substantial downside is more political interference in the economy. Pretty swampy.

We saw something very similar when President Obama was granting waivers for Obamacare. That was just one of the ways insiders got rich lobbying politicians for special treatment under government-run healthcare.

Let’s wrap this up.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal in March, Senator Pat Toomey and former Senator Phil Gramm conclude Trump’s protectionism was a failure.

In his first two years as president, Mr. Trump lifted regulatory burdens and pushed through a major tax cut, which triggered a broad-based rise in income and employment. He then turned to his protectionist agenda, which reduced economic growth and failed to deliver Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin in the 2020 election. Protectionism failed both as economic policy and political strategy. …As Mr. Trump found when he imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, the resulting increase in jobs in those industries was small. …Jobs gained in the steel and aluminum industries after the tariffs were dwarfed by jobs lost in industries that use steel and aluminum in their manufacturing process, not to mention the jobs lost due to foreign trade retaliation. …Innovation, technological development and the capacity of a market economy to adapt to change provide our only sure path to job creation and prosperity. This is a lesson all politicians, but especially Republicans, need to learn from the economic and political failure of protectionism in the Trump era.

Amen.

Protectionism didn’t work. It didn’t create jobs, and it didn’t even buy votes.

Which is why I hope this meme is the lesson that people remember from the Trump years (also the message we should have learned from the Hoover years).

The bottom line is that “Tariff Man” hurt himself and hurt the economy.

P.S. Sadly, Biden has not reversed many of Trump’s protectionist policies. But that’s not a surprise given his support for statism.

P.P.S. Though I hold out some hope that Biden will utilize the World Trade Organization as a tool to expand trade, thus reversing one of Trump’s mistakes.

Big-Government Republicans Enable Big-Government Democrats

I get asked why I frequently criticize Republicans.

My response is easy. I care about results rather than rhetoric. And while GOP politicians often pay lip service to the principles of limited government,they usually increase spending even faster than Democrats.

Indeed, Republicans are even worse than Democrats when measuring the growth of domestic spending!

This is bad news because it means the burden of government expands when Republicans are in charge.

And, as Gary Abernathy points out in a column for the Washington Post, Republicans then don’t have the moral authority to complain when Democrats engage in spending binges.

President Biden is proposing another $3 trillion in spending… There are objections, but none that can be taken seriously. …Republicans had lost their standing as the party of fiscal responsibility when most of them succumbed to the political virus of covid fever and rubber-stamped around $4 trillion in “covid relief,”… With Trump out and Biden in, Republicans suddenly pretended that their 2020 spending spree happened in some alternate universe.But the GOP’s united opposition to Biden’s $1.9 trillion package won’t wash off the stench of the hypocrisy. …I noted a year ago that we had crossed the Rubicon, that our longtime flirtation with socialism had become a permanent relationship. Congratulations, Bernie Sanders. The GOP won’t become irrelevant because of its association with Trump, as some predict. It will diminish because it is bizarrely opposing now that which it helped make palatable just last year. Fiscal responsibility is dead, and Republicans helped bury it. Put the shovels away, there’s no digging it up now.

For what it’s worth, I hope genuine fiscal responsibility isn’t dead.

Maybe it’s been hibernating ever since Reagan left office (like Pepperidge Farm, I’m old enough to remember those wonderful years).

Subsequent Republican presidents liked to copy Reagan’s rhetoric, but they definitely didn’t copy his policies.

  • Spending restraint was hibernating during the presidency of George H.W. Bush.
  • Spending restraint also was hibernating during the presidency of George W. Bush.
  • And spending restraint was hibernating during the presidency of Donald Trump.

I’m not the only one to notice GOP hypocrisy.

Here are some excerpts from a 2019 column in the Washington Post by Fareed Zakaria.

In what Republicans used to call the core of their agenda — limited government — Trump has been profoundly unconservative. …Trump has now added more than $88 billion in taxes in the form of tariffs, according to the right-leaning Tax Foundation. (Despite what the president says, tariffs are taxes on foreign goods paid by U.S. consumers.) This has had the effect of reducing gross domestic product and denting the wages of Americans.…For decades, conservatives including Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan preached to the world the virtues of free trade. But perhaps even more, they believed in the idea that governments should not pick winners and losers in the economy… Yet the Trump administration…behaved like a Central Planning Agency, granting exemptions on tariffs to favored companies and industries, while refusing them to others. …In true Soviet style, lobbyists, lawyers and corporate executives now line up to petition government officials for these treasured waivers, which are granted in an opaque process… On the core issue that used to define the GOP — economics — the party’s agenda today is state planning and crony capitalism.

Zakaria is right about Republicans going along with most of Trump’s bad policies (as illustrated by this cartoon strip).*

The bottom line is that Republicans would be much more effective arguing against Biden’s spending orgy had they also argued for spending restraint when Trump was in the White House.

P.S. It will be interesting to see what happens in the near future. Will the GOP be a small-government Reagan party or a big-government Trump party?

Or maybe it will go back to being a Nixon-type party, which would mean bigger government but without mean tweets. And there are plenty of options.

If they make the wrong choice (anything other than Reaganism), Margaret Thatcher has already warned us about the consequences.

*To be fair, Republicans also went along with Trump’s good policies. It’s just unfortunate that spending restraint wasn’t one of them.

—-

March 31, 2021

President Biden  c/o The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

Please explain to me if you ever do plan to balance the budget while you are President? I have written these things below about you and I really do think that you don’t want to cut spending in order to balance the budget. It seems you ever are daring the Congress to stop you from spending more.

President Barack Obama speaks about the debt limit in the East Room of the White House in Washington. | AP Photo

“The credit of the United States ‘is not a bargaining chip,’ Obama said on 1-14-13. However, President Obama keeps getting our country’s credit rating downgraded as he raises the debt ceiling higher and higher!!!!

Washington Could Learn a Lot from a Drug Addict

Just spend more, don’t know how to cut!!! Really!!! That is not living in the real world is it?

Making more dependent on government is not the way to go!!

Why is our government in over 16 trillion dollars in debt? There are many reasons for this but the biggest reason is people say “Let’s spend someone else’s money to solve our problems.” Liberals like Max Brantley have talked this way for years. Brantley will say that conservatives are being harsh when they don’t want the government out encouraging people to be dependent on the government. The Obama adminstration has even promoted a plan for young people to follow like Julia the Moocher.  

David Ramsey demonstrates in his Arkansas Times Blog post of 1-14-13 that very point:

Arkansas Politics / Health Care Arkansas’s share of Medicaid expansion and the national debt

Posted by on Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Baby carrot Arkansas Medicaid expansion image

Imagine standing a baby carrot up next to the 25-story Stephens building in Little Rock. That gives you a picture of the impact on the national debt that federal spending in Arkansas on Medicaid expansion would have, while here at home expansion would give coverage to more than 200,000 of our neediest citizens, create jobs, and save money for the state.

Here’s the thing: while more than a billion dollars a year in federal spending would represent a big-time stimulus for Arkansas, it’s not even a drop in the bucket when it comes to the national debt.

Currently, the national debt is around $16.4 trillion. In fiscal year 2015, the federal government would spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.2 billion to fund Medicaid expansion in Arkansas if we say yes. That’s about 1/13,700th of the debt.

It’s hard to get a handle on numbers that big, so to put that in perspective, let’s get back to the baby carrot. Imagine that the height of the Stephens building (365 feet) is the $16 trillion national debt. That $1.2 billion would be the length of a ladybug. Of course, we’re not just talking about one year if we expand. Between now and 2021, the federal government projects to contribute around $10 billion. The federal debt is projected to be around $25 trillion by then, so we’re talking about 1/2,500th of the debt. Compared to the Stephens building? That’s a baby carrot.

______________

Here is how it will all end if everyone feels they should be allowed to have their “baby carrot.”

How sad it is that liberals just don’t get this reality.

Here is what the Founding Fathers had to say about welfare. David Weinberger noted:

While living in Europe in the 1760s, Franklin observed: “in different countries … the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee (15 October 1747 – 5 January 1813) was a Scottish lawyer, writer, and professor. Tytler was also a historian, and he noted, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.”

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Milligan

April 6, 1816

[Jefferson affirms that the main purpose of society is to enable human beings to keep the fruits of their labor. — TGW]

To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, “the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.” If the overgrown wealth of an individual be deemed dangerous to the State, the best corrective is the law of equal inheritance to all in equal degree; and the better, as this enforces a law of nature, while extra taxation violates it.

[From Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Albert E. Bergh (Washington: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), 14:466.]

_______

Jefferson pointed out that to take from the rich and give to the poor through government is just wrong. Franklin knew the poor would have a better path upward without government welfare coming their way. Milton Friedman’s negative income tax is the best method for doing that and by taking away all welfare programs and letting them go to the churches for charity.

_____________

_________

Thank you so much for your time. I know how valuable it is. I also appreciate the fine family that you have and your commitment as a father and a husband.

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733

Williams with Sowell – Minimum Wage

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell – Reducing Black Unemployment

By WALTER WILLIAMS

—-

Ronald Reagan with Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman The Power of the Market 2-5

Related posts:

Welfare Spending Shattering All-Time Highs

  We got to act fast and get off this path of socialism. Morning Bell: Welfare Spending Shattering All-Time Highs Robert Rector and Amy Payne October 18, 2012 at 9:03 am It’s been a pretty big year for welfare—and a new report shows welfare is bigger than ever. The Obama Administration turned a giant spotlight […]

We need more brave souls that will vote against Washington welfare programs

We need to cut Food Stamp program and not extend it. However, it seems that people tell the taxpayers back home they are going to Washington and cut government spending but once they get up there they just fall in line with  everyone else that keeps spending our money. I am glad that at least […]

Welfare programs are not the answer for the poor

Government Must Cut Spending Uploaded by HeritageFoundation on Dec 2, 2010 The government can cut roughly $343 billion from the federal budget and they can do so immediately. __________ Liberals argue that the poor need more welfare programs, but I have always argued that these programs enslave the poor to the government. Food Stamps Growth […]

Private charities are best solution and not government welfare

Milton Friedman – The Negative Income Tax Published on May 11, 2012 by LibertyPen In this 1968 interview, Milton Friedman explained the negative income tax, a proposal that at minimum would save taxpayers the 72 percent of our current welfare budget spent on administration. http://www.LibertyPen.com Source: Firing Line with William F Buckley Jr. ________________ Milton […]

The book “After the Welfare State”

Dan Mitchell Commenting on Obama’s Failure to Propose a Fiscal Plan Published on Aug 16, 2012 by danmitchellcato No description available. ___________ After the Welfare State Posted by David Boaz Cato senior fellow Tom G. Palmer, who is lecturing about freedom in Slovenia and Tbilisi this week, asked me to post this announcement of his […]

President Obama responds to Heritage Foundation critics on welfare reform waivers

Is President Obama gutting the welfare reform that Bill Clinton signed into law? Morning Bell: Obama Denies Gutting Welfare Reform Amy Payne August 8, 2012 at 9:15 am The Obama Administration came out swinging against its critics on welfare reform yesterday, with Press Secretary Jay Carney saying the charge that the Administration gutted the successful […]

Welfare reform part 3

Thomas Sowell – Welfare Welfare reform was working so good. Why did we have to abandon it? Look at this article from 2003. The Continuing Good News About Welfare Reform By Robert Rector and Patrick Fagan, Ph.D. February 6, 2003 Six years ago, President Bill Clinton signed legislation overhauling part of the nation’s welfare system. […]

Welfare reform part 2

Uploaded by ForaTv on May 29, 2009 Complete video at: http://fora.tv/2009/05/18/James_Bartholomew_The_Welfare_State_Were_In Author James Bartholomew argues that welfare benefits actually increase government handouts by ‘ruining’ ambition. He compares welfare to a humane mousetrap. —– Welfare reform was working so good. Why did we have to abandon it? Look at this article from 2003. In the controversial […]

Why did Obama stop the Welfare Reform that Clinton put in?

Thomas Sowell If the welfare reform law was successful then why change it? Wasn’t Bill Clinton the president that signed into law? Obama Guts Welfare Reform Robert Rector and Kiki Bradley July 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm Today, the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an official policy directive rewriting the welfare […]

“Feedback Friday” Letter to White House generated form letter response July 10,2012 on welfare, etc (part 14)

I have been writing President Obama letters and have not received a personal response yet.  (He reads 10 letters a day personally and responds to each of them.) However, I did receive a form letter in the form of an email on July 10, 2012. I don’t know which letter of mine generated this response so I have […]

Quadruple the Cost, 11 Years Late

It appears that only a fraction of the spending proposed in a new $3 trillion to $4 trillion bill would go toward an already too-expansive definition of infrastructure. Pictured: Engineers discuss the progress of an infrastructure construction project. (Photo: Sornranison Prakittrakoon/ Moment/Getty Images)

The media were flooded Monday with news that the Biden administration is working on a colossal new $3 trillion to $4 trillion spending plan.

While full details are not available yet, the plan appears to be another left-wing grab bag of big-government proposals. Rather than stimulating the economy, it would stimulate bigger government while funneling unprecedented amounts of power and money through the hands of politicians in Washington.

All this comes on the heels of President Joe Biden signing into law on March 11 a badly flawed $1.9 trillion legislative package that was originally marketed as a COVID-19 response, but which was more focused on left-wing pet causes, such as bailouts for union pension plans and unnecessary handouts for state governments.

Just a day later, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., released a statement calling for bipartisan work on legislation that would focus on infrastructure. While there were good reasons to question how beneficial or “bipartisan” such legislation would be, there was at least a chance of finding some across-the-aisle support.

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But the potential for bipartisanship was quickly scuttled by news of the latest multitrillion-dollar plan.

It would be bad enough if the latest plan was just a big-spending infrastructure package. However, it appears that only a fraction of the new spending would go toward an already too-expansive definition of infrastructure.

Instead, most of the new spending and tax subsidies would go toward expanding the welfare state, including “free” tuition for community colleges, “free” child care, and other handouts that lack right-of-center support.

This would likely be the largest expansion of the federal government since the “Great Society” of the 1960s, even eclipsing Obamacare in scope.

Reports indicate that Democrats might attempt to split the plan into two bills—one focused on social spending that passes narrowly along party lines, the other focused on actual infrastructure aimed at winning bipartisan support.

However, it’s clear that the $3 trillion-plus total price tag is already souring prospects for bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

House Republicans boycotted the annual Ways and Means Committee “Member’s Day” hearing on Tuesday in the wake of news reports on the plan, since they indicated that Democrats have already made up their minds to pursue as much spending as possible through the legislative procedure known as reconciliation.

Coincidentally, two respected nonpartisan groups released reports this week that show why Biden and Pelosi should pause their aggressive agenda.

First, the Congressional Budget Office published a paper demonstrating what would happen if a sustained increase in federal spending were coupled with big tax increases to pay for the spending.

While the analysis points to different long-term effects from different types of taxes, any tax-and-spend approach would lead to reductions in economic growth and personal income that are larger than the size of the tax hikes.

For example, the analysis found that having 10% more federal government would mean a 12% to 19% reduction in personal consumption.

And that’s a conservative estimate. Most estimates show tax hikes shrink the economy by two to three times more than the revenues they raise.

That doesn’t mean Congress could escape the consequences of a continued spending spree by simply adding to the national debt. The CBO paper cautions that that would not only impose significant costs and divert resources away from the private sector, but it also would be unsustainable and increase the risk of a devastating financial crisis.

Along the same lines, the Government Accountability Office released a sobering reporton the nation’s poor financial health.

Now that Congress has passed a combined total of $6 trillion in legislation in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic (more than $48,000 per household), it must quickly address the unsustainable growth of major benefit programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Even before the pandemic struck, these programs were on a path to bankruptcy. Addressing these shortfalls in a way that is fair to both current retirees and future generations who will have to foot the bill is one of the greatest policy challenges facing the nation.

Unfortunately, Washington is exacerbating the problem by adding excessively to the national debt and potentially stunting economic growth with higher taxes.

While the Biden administration has repeatedly claimed that it will only seek to raise taxes on the wealthy, a government of the size that it’s seeking would require amounts of money that can only be generated through steep across-the-board tax increases on middle-class Americans.

Regardless of whether those taxes are levied tomorrow or in a few years, they would be an inevitable part of expanding the size and scope of the federal government.

Rather than continuing down the path of centralized power and socialism, lawmakers should recognize the costs associated with endless federal spending and chart a course toward financial responsibility and prosperity.

If they don’t, it will be the public’s duty to hold them accountable.

Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com and we will consider publishing your remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature.

March 31, 2021

President Biden  c/o The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

Please explain to me if you ever do plan to balance the budget while you are President? I have written these things below about you and I really do think that you don’t want to cut spending in order to balance the budget. It seems you ever are daring the Congress to stop you from spending more.

President Barack Obama speaks about the debt limit in the East Room of the White House in Washington. | AP Photo

“The credit of the United States ‘is not a bargaining chip,’ Obama said on 1-14-13. However, President Obama keeps getting our country’s credit rating downgraded as he raises the debt ceiling higher and higher!!!!

Washington Could Learn a Lot from a Drug Addict

Just spend more, don’t know how to cut!!! Really!!! That is not living in the real world is it?

Making more dependent on government is not the way to go!!

Why is our government in over 16 trillion dollars in debt? There are many reasons for this but the biggest reason is people say “Let’s spend someone else’s money to solve our problems.” Liberals like Max Brantley have talked this way for years. Brantley will say that conservatives are being harsh when they don’t want the government out encouraging people to be dependent on the government. The Obama adminstration has even promoted a plan for young people to follow like Julia the Moocher.  

David Ramsey demonstrates in his Arkansas Times Blog post of 1-14-13 that very point:

Arkansas Politics / Health Care Arkansas’s share of Medicaid expansion and the national debt

Posted by on Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Baby carrot Arkansas Medicaid expansion image

Imagine standing a baby carrot up next to the 25-story Stephens building in Little Rock. That gives you a picture of the impact on the national debt that federal spending in Arkansas on Medicaid expansion would have, while here at home expansion would give coverage to more than 200,000 of our neediest citizens, create jobs, and save money for the state.

Here’s the thing: while more than a billion dollars a year in federal spending would represent a big-time stimulus for Arkansas, it’s not even a drop in the bucket when it comes to the national debt.

Currently, the national debt is around $16.4 trillion. In fiscal year 2015, the federal government would spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.2 billion to fund Medicaid expansion in Arkansas if we say yes. That’s about 1/13,700th of the debt.

It’s hard to get a handle on numbers that big, so to put that in perspective, let’s get back to the baby carrot. Imagine that the height of the Stephens building (365 feet) is the $16 trillion national debt. That $1.2 billion would be the length of a ladybug. Of course, we’re not just talking about one year if we expand. Between now and 2021, the federal government projects to contribute around $10 billion. The federal debt is projected to be around $25 trillion by then, so we’re talking about 1/2,500th of the debt. Compared to the Stephens building? That’s a baby carrot.

______________

Here is how it will all end if everyone feels they should be allowed to have their “baby carrot.”

How sad it is that liberals just don’t get this reality.

Here is what the Founding Fathers had to say about welfare. David Weinberger noted:

While living in Europe in the 1760s, Franklin observed: “in different countries … the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee (15 October 1747 – 5 January 1813) was a Scottish lawyer, writer, and professor. Tytler was also a historian, and he noted, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.”

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Milligan

April 6, 1816

[Jefferson affirms that the main purpose of society is to enable human beings to keep the fruits of their labor. — TGW]

To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, “the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.” If the overgrown wealth of an individual be deemed dangerous to the State, the best corrective is the law of equal inheritance to all in equal degree; and the better, as this enforces a law of nature, while extra taxation violates it.

[From Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Albert E. Bergh (Washington: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), 14:466.]

_______

Jefferson pointed out that to take from the rich and give to the poor through government is just wrong. Franklin knew the poor would have a better path upward without government welfare coming their way. Milton Friedman’s negative income tax is the best method for doing that and by taking away all welfare programs and letting them go to the churches for charity.

_____________

_________

Thank you so much for your time. I know how valuable it is. I also appreciate the fine family that you have and your commitment as a father and a husband.

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733

Williams with Sowell – Minimum Wage

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell – Reducing Black Unemployment

By WALTER WILLIAMS

—-

Ronald Reagan with Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman The Power of the Market 2-5

Related posts:

Welfare Spending Shattering All-Time Highs

  We got to act fast and get off this path of socialism. Morning Bell: Welfare Spending Shattering All-Time Highs Robert Rector and Amy Payne October 18, 2012 at 9:03 am It’s been a pretty big year for welfare—and a new report shows welfare is bigger than ever. The Obama Administration turned a giant spotlight […]

We need more brave souls that will vote against Washington welfare programs

We need to cut Food Stamp program and not extend it. However, it seems that people tell the taxpayers back home they are going to Washington and cut government spending but once they get up there they just fall in line with  everyone else that keeps spending our money. I am glad that at least […]

Welfare programs are not the answer for the poor

Government Must Cut Spending Uploaded by HeritageFoundation on Dec 2, 2010 The government can cut roughly $343 billion from the federal budget and they can do so immediately. __________ Liberals argue that the poor need more welfare programs, but I have always argued that these programs enslave the poor to the government. Food Stamps Growth […]

Private charities are best solution and not government welfare

Milton Friedman – The Negative Income Tax Published on May 11, 2012 by LibertyPen In this 1968 interview, Milton Friedman explained the negative income tax, a proposal that at minimum would save taxpayers the 72 percent of our current welfare budget spent on administration. http://www.LibertyPen.com Source: Firing Line with William F Buckley Jr. ________________ Milton […]

The book “After the Welfare State”

Dan Mitchell Commenting on Obama’s Failure to Propose a Fiscal Plan Published on Aug 16, 2012 by danmitchellcato No description available. ___________ After the Welfare State Posted by David Boaz Cato senior fellow Tom G. Palmer, who is lecturing about freedom in Slovenia and Tbilisi this week, asked me to post this announcement of his […]

President Obama responds to Heritage Foundation critics on welfare reform waivers

Is President Obama gutting the welfare reform that Bill Clinton signed into law? Morning Bell: Obama Denies Gutting Welfare Reform Amy Payne August 8, 2012 at 9:15 am The Obama Administration came out swinging against its critics on welfare reform yesterday, with Press Secretary Jay Carney saying the charge that the Administration gutted the successful […]

Welfare reform part 3

Thomas Sowell – Welfare Welfare reform was working so good. Why did we have to abandon it? Look at this article from 2003. The Continuing Good News About Welfare Reform By Robert Rector and Patrick Fagan, Ph.D. February 6, 2003 Six years ago, President Bill Clinton signed legislation overhauling part of the nation’s welfare system. […]

Welfare reform part 2

Uploaded by ForaTv on May 29, 2009 Complete video at: http://fora.tv/2009/05/18/James_Bartholomew_The_Welfare_State_Were_In Author James Bartholomew argues that welfare benefits actually increase government handouts by ‘ruining’ ambition. He compares welfare to a humane mousetrap. —– Welfare reform was working so good. Why did we have to abandon it? Look at this article from 2003. In the controversial […]

Why did Obama stop the Welfare Reform that Clinton put in?

Thomas Sowell If the welfare reform law was successful then why change it? Wasn’t Bill Clinton the president that signed into law? Obama Guts Welfare Reform Robert Rector and Kiki Bradley July 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm Today, the Obama Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an official policy directive rewriting the welfare […]

“Feedback Friday” Letter to White House generated form letter response July 10,2012 on welfare, etc (part 14)

I have been writing President Obama letters and have not received a personal response yet.  (He reads 10 letters a day personally and responds to each of them.) However, I did receive a form letter in the form of an email on July 10, 2012. I don’t know which letter of mine generated this response so I have […]



APRIL 20, 2021 1:47PM

Quadruple the Cost, 11 Years Late

By Randal O’Toole


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The California high‐​speed rail project was originally projected to cost $25 billion and is now projected to cost $100 billion. It was originally expected to be complete by 2020; now they are saying some time in the 2030s. Since they don’t have the money to complete it, it may never get done, and the part that will be finished serves the least‐​populated part of the route.

Hawaii has its own rail debacle that sounds like California’s system on a smaller scale. Honolulu decided to build a rail transit line that was originally projected to cost less than $3 billion. The latest estimates are that it will cost $12 billion including finance charges. The line was supposed to open in 2020; now they are saying 2031. But that date may be irrelevant because the transit agency building the project is $3 billion short of what is needed to finish it, and the part that will be finished serves the least‐​populated part of the route.

These two examples are a little extreme, but rail transit projects on average cost about 50 percent more than their original projections and very few end up costing less than 20 percent more than projected. While it is too soon to tell for California or Honolulu rail, ridership projections also average 70 percent more than actual ridership. A planning process that systematically overestimates benefits and underestimates costs is effectively biased towards capital intensive, high‐​cost projects.

This makes it particularly frightening that the Biden infrastructure plan calls for spending $85 billion more on transit. Transit carries only 1 percent of passenger travel in the United States and zero percent of freight, yet under Biden’s plan it would get nearly as much money as highways, which carry more than 85 percent of passenger travel and nearly 40 percent of the nation’s freight.

Biden’s proposal specifically calls for bringing “rail service to communities and neighborhoods across the country.” But rail transit was rendered obsolete by buses nearly a century ago, which is why between 1920 and 1975 around a thousand cities replaced rail lines with buses. Only when the federal government agreed to pay part of the cost of building new rail lines did many transit agencies get interested in new rail transit construction. Since then, the number of cities with rail transit has quintupled.

This is just one way in which the Biden infrastructure plan will waste money. Another is a “fix‐​it first” provision associated with Biden’s proposed highway spending. Although highways nominally get a little more money than transit ($115 billion vs. $85 billion), the “fix it first” rule means that states will not be able to build new roads until all existing roads are considered to be in good condition. No such rule will be applied to transit.

In fact, America’s state highways and bridges are already in pretty good condition. The number of bridges rated to be in “poor” condition has declined from 124,000 in 1992to 45,000 in 2020. The average roughness of pavement has also declined, meaning fewer potholes. These improvements were made without a giant infrastructure bill.

Transit infrastructure, meanwhile, is in terrible shape and deteriorating faster than agencies are maintaining it. The latest estimate is that transit needs $174 billion to get into a state of good repair. (It would cost a lot less to convert most rail transit to buses, which could be done in most cities whose initials are not NYC without harming transit systems.) If a fix‐​it first rule should be applied to anything, it would be transit.

An even more fundamental flaw with the Biden plan is that it completely ignores recent events, namely the pandemic. Even after everyone is vaccinated, it is expected that more people will work at home, fewer jobs will be located in downtowns, and more households will move to lower density areas. All of these changes hurt transit ridership, which is not likely to recover to more than about 75 percent of its pre‐​pandemic levels. This is a bad time to increasing spending on transit infrastructure.

The federal government should stop giving cities incentives to build expensive rail transit lines they don’t need. If Congress really wants to help infrastructure, it should just give money to the states based on a formula that takes population, land area, and miles of passenger travel and freight shipping (or user fees) into account and let the states decide how to spend the money.

Biden Wants America to Have the World’s Highest Tax Burden on Capital Gains by Dan Mitchell

Biden Wants America to Have the World’s Highest Tax Burden on Capital Gains

Because of the negative impact on competitiveness, productivity, and worker compensation, it’s a very bad idea to impose double taxation of saving and investment.

Which is why there should be no tax on capital gains, and a few nations sensibly take this approach.

But they’re outnumbered by countries that do impose this pernicious form of double taxation. For instance, the Tax Foundation has a new report about the level of capital gains taxation in Europe, which includes this very instructive map.

As you can see, some countries, such as Denmark (gee, what a surprise), have very punitive rates.

However, other nations (such as Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Luxembourg, and Slovenia) wisely don’t impose this form of double taxation.

If the United States was included, we would be in the middle of the pack. Actually, we would be a bit worse than average, especially when you include the Obamacare tax on capital gains.

But if Joe Biden succeeds, the United States soon will have the dubious honor of being the worst of the worst.

The Wall Street Journal opined this morning about the grim news.

Biden officials leaked that they will soon propose raising the federal tax on capital gains to 43.4% from a top rate of 23.8% today. …Mr. Biden will tax capital gains for taxpayers who earn more than $1 million at the personal income tax rate, which he also wants to raise to 39.6% from 37%.Add the 3.8% ObamaCare tax on investment, and you get to 43.4%. And that’s merely the federal rate. Add 13.3% in California and 11.85% in New York (plus 3.88% in New York City), which also tax capital gains as regular income, and you are heading toward the 60% rate range. Keep in mind this is on the sale of gains that are often inflated as assets are held for years without adjustment for inflation. Oh, and Mr. Biden also wants to eliminate the step-up in basis on capital gains that accrues at death.

Beating out Denmark for the highest capital gains tax rate is bad.

But it’s even worse when you realize that capital gains often occur because investors expect an asset to generate more future income. But that future income gets hit by the corporate income tax (as well as the tax on dividends) when it actually materializes.

So the most accurate way to assess the burden on new investment is to look at the combined rate of corporate taxation and capital gains (as as well as the combined rate of corporate taxation and dividend taxation).

By that measure, the United States already has one of the world’s most-punitive tax regimes, And Biden wants to increase all of those tax rates.

Sort of a class-warfare trifecta, and definitely not a recipe for good economic results.

For those interested in more details, here’s a video I narrated on the topic back in 2010.

And I also recommend these columns (here, here, and here) for additional information on why we should be eliminating the capital gains tax rather than increasing it.

P.S. Don’t forget that there’s no indexing to protect taxpayersfrom having to pay tax on gains that are due only to inflation.

P.P.S. And also keep in mind that some folks on the left want to impose tax on capital gains that only exist on paper.

March 16, 2021

President Biden c/o The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

Is our country learning from history? California keeps raising their taxes on the wealthy and people keep moving from California to Texas. What does our federal government do? They also have been raising taxes on the wealthy lately. Take a look at this excellent video below and then read a great article by Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute on what is happening in California right now.

Will Higher Tax Rates Balance the Budget?

Published on Apr 11, 2012

As the U.S. debt and deficit grows, some politicians and economist have called for higher tax rates in order to balance the budget. The question becomes: when the government raises taxes, does it actually collect a larger portion of the US economy?

Professor Antony Davies examines 50 years of economic data and finds that regardless of tax rates, the percentage of GDP that the government collects has remained relatively constant. In other words, no matter how high government sets tax rates, the government gets about the same portion. According to Davies, if we’re concerned about balancing the budget, we should worry less about raising tax revenue and more about growing the economy. The recipe for growth? Lower tax rates and a simplified tax code.

Like most people, I’m a sucker for a heartwarming story around the holidays.

Sometimes, you get that nice feeling when good things happen to good people, like you find at the end of a classic movie like “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

But since I’m a bit of a curmudgeon, I also feel all warm and fuzzy when bad things happen to bad people.

That’s why I always smile when I read stories about taxpayers moving across borders, thus preventing greedy tax-hiking politicians from collecting more revenue.

“Where’s our tax revenue?!?”

I’m glad when that happens to French politicians. I’m glad when it happens to Italian politicians. I’m glad when it happens to Illinois politicians. And British politicians. And Spanish politicians. And Maryland politicians. I could continue, but I think you get the point.

I’m even glad when it happens to the politicians in Washington.

I smile because I envision the moment when some budget geek tells these sleazy politicians that projected revenues aren’t materializing and they don’t have more money to spend.

So I wish I could be a fly on the wall when this moment of truth happens to California politicians. They convinced voters in the state to enact Prop 30, a huge tax increase targeting those evil, awful, bad rich people.

Governor Brown and his fellow kleptocrats in Sacramento doubtlessly are salivating at the thought of more money to waste.

But notwithstanding a satirical suggestion from Walter Williams, there aren’t guard towers and barbed-wire fences surrounding the state. Productive people can leave, and that’s happening every day. And they take their taxable income with them.

Usually in ways that don’t attract attention. But sometimes a bunch of them leave at the same times, and that is newsworthy. Here’s an example of that happening, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Chevron Corp. will move up to 800 jobs – about a quarter of its current headquarters staff – from the Bay Area to Houston over the next two years but will remain based in San Ramon, the oil company told employees Thursday. …The company already employs far more people in Houston – about 9,000 full-time employees and contractors – than it does in San Ramon.

We don’t know a lot of details, but these were positions at the company’s headquarters and they were “technical positions dealing with information and advanced energy technologies…tied to Chevron’s worldwide oil exploration and production business.”

Let’s assume these highly skilled employees earn an average of $250,000. I imagine that’s a low-ball estimate, but this is just for purposes of a thought experiment. Now multiply that average salary by 800 workers and you get $200 million of income.

And every penny of that $200 million no longer will be subject to tax by the kleptocrats in the state’s capital.

In other words, we’re seeing the Laffer Curve in action.

Politicians can raise tax rates all day long, but that doesn’t automatically translate into more tax revenue. Politicians keep forgetting that taxable income is not a fixed variable.

What’s happening in a big way with Chevron is happening in small ways every single day with investors, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and other “rich’ people.

That’s good for the people escaping. And it also will warm my heart when California’s despicable politicians discover next year that there’s an “unexpected” revenue shortfall.

P.S. It’s just an anecdote that the Chevron jobs are going to Texas. But when you add together a bunch of anecdotes, you get data. And according to the data, Texas is kicking the you-know-what out of California. Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned?

__________

___________

Thank you so much for your time. I know how valuable it is. I also appreciate the fine family that you have and your commitment as a father and a husband.

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733

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—-

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Some Tea Party heroes (Part 9)

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Rep Himes and Rep Schweikert Discuss the Debt and Budget Deal Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute in his article, “Hitting the Ceiling,” National Review Online, March 7, 2012 noted: After all, despite all the sturm und drang about spending cuts as part of last year’s debt-ceiling deal, federal spending not only increased from 2011 […]

PREVENTING FISCAL MELTDOWNS WITH A SPENDING CAP by Dan Mitchell

Preventing Fiscal Meltdowns with a Spending Cap

As part of my recent interview about European economic policy with Gunther Fehlinger, I pontificated on issues such as Convergence and Wagner’s Law.

I also explained why a Swiss-style spending cap could have saved Greece and Italy from fiscal crisis. Here’s that part of the discussion.

For those not familiar with spending caps, this six-minute videotells you everything you need to know.

Simply stated, this policy requires politicians to abide by fiscal policy’s Golden Rule, meaning that – on average – government spending grows slower than the private economy.

And that’s a very effective recipe for a lower burden of spending and falling levels of red ink.

One of the points I made in the video is that spending caps would prevented the fiscal mess in Greece and Italy.

To show what I mean, I went to the International Monetary Funds World Economic Outlook database and downloaded the historical budget data for those two nations. I then created charts showing actual spending starting in 1988 compared to how much spending would have grown if there was a requirement that the budget could only increase by 2 percent each year.

Here are the shocking numbers for Greece.

The obvious takeaway is that there never would have been a fiscal crisis if Greece had a spending cap.

That also would be true even if the spending cap allowed 3-percent budget increases starting in 1998.

And it would be true if the 2-percent spending cap didn’t start until 2000.

There are all sorts of ways of adjusting the numbers. The bottom line is that any reasonable level of spending restraint could have prevented the horrible misery Greece has suffered.

Here are the numbers for Italy.

As you can see, the government budget has not increased nearly as fast in Italy as it did in Greece, but the burden of spending nonetheless has become more onerous – particularly when compared to what would have happened if there was a 2-percent spending cap.

I’ve written many times (here, here, here, and here) about Italy’s looming fiscal crisis. As I said in the interview, I don’t know when the house of cards will collapse, but it won’t be pretty.

And tax reform, while very desirable, is not going to avert that crisis. At least not unless it is combined with very serious spending restraint.

P.S. For those who want information about real-world success stories, I shared three short video presentations back in 2015 about the spending caps in Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Colorado.

P.P.S. It’s also worth noting that the United States would be in a much stronger position today if we had enacted a spending capa couple of decades ago.

March 31, 2021

President Biden  c/o The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

Please explain to me if you ever do plan to balance the budget while you are President? I have written these things below about you and I really do think that you don’t want to cut spending in order to balance the budget. It seems you ever are daring the Congress to stop you from spending more.

President Barack Obama speaks about the debt limit in the East Room of the White House in Washington. | AP Photo

“The credit of the United States ‘is not a bargaining chip,’ Obama said on 1-14-13. However, President Obama keeps getting our country’s credit rating downgraded as he raises the debt ceiling higher and higher!!!!

Washington Could Learn a Lot from a Drug Addict

Just spend more, don’t know how to cut!!! Really!!! That is not living in the real world is it?

Making more dependent on government is not the way to go!!

Why is our government in over 16 trillion dollars in debt? There are many reasons for this but the biggest reason is people say “Let’s spend someone else’s money to solve our problems.” Liberals like Max Brantley have talked this way for years. Brantley will say that conservatives are being harsh when they don’t want the government out encouraging people to be dependent on the government. The Obama adminstration has even promoted a plan for young people to follow like Julia the Moocher.  

David Ramsey demonstrates in his Arkansas Times Blog post of 1-14-13 that very point:

Arkansas Politics / Health Care Arkansas’s share of Medicaid expansion and the national debt

Posted by on Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 1:02 PM

Baby carrot Arkansas Medicaid expansion image

Imagine standing a baby carrot up next to the 25-story Stephens building in Little Rock. That gives you a picture of the impact on the national debt that federal spending in Arkansas on Medicaid expansion would have, while here at home expansion would give coverage to more than 200,000 of our neediest citizens, create jobs, and save money for the state.

Here’s the thing: while more than a billion dollars a year in federal spending would represent a big-time stimulus for Arkansas, it’s not even a drop in the bucket when it comes to the national debt.

Currently, the national debt is around $16.4 trillion. In fiscal year 2015, the federal government would spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.2 billion to fund Medicaid expansion in Arkansas if we say yes. That’s about 1/13,700th of the debt.

It’s hard to get a handle on numbers that big, so to put that in perspective, let’s get back to the baby carrot. Imagine that the height of the Stephens building (365 feet) is the $16 trillion national debt. That $1.2 billion would be the length of a ladybug. Of course, we’re not just talking about one year if we expand. Between now and 2021, the federal government projects to contribute around $10 billion. The federal debt is projected to be around $25 trillion by then, so we’re talking about 1/2,500th of the debt. Compared to the Stephens building? That’s a baby carrot.

______________

Here is how it will all end if everyone feels they should be allowed to have their “baby carrot.”

How sad it is that liberals just don’t get this reality.

Here is what the Founding Fathers had to say about welfare. David Weinberger noted:

While living in Europe in the 1760s, Franklin observed: “in different countries … the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”

Alexander Fraser Tytler, Lord Woodhouselee (15 October 1747 – 5 January 1813) was a Scottish lawyer, writer, and professor. Tytler was also a historian, and he noted, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.”

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Milligan

April 6, 1816

[Jefferson affirms that the main purpose of society is to enable human beings to keep the fruits of their labor. — TGW]

To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, “the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it.” If the overgrown wealth of an individual be deemed dangerous to the State, the best corrective is the law of equal inheritance to all in equal degree; and the better, as this enforces a law of nature, while extra taxation violates it.

[From Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Albert E. Bergh (Washington: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), 14:466.]

_______

Jefferson pointed out that to take from the rich and give to the poor through government is just wrong. Franklin knew the poor would have a better path upward without government welfare coming their way. Milton Friedman’s negative income tax is the best method for doing that and by taking away all welfare programs and letting them go to the churches for charity.

_____________

_________

Thank you so much for your time. I know how valuable it is. I also appreciate the fine family that you have and your commitment as a father and a husband.

Sincerely,

Everette Hatcher III, 13900 Cottontail Lane, Alexander, AR 72002, ph 501-920-5733

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—-

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