Sunday, January 6, 2008

A short blog from a long day

Remember the book Aerobics by Ken Cooper, the one that really started the fitness movement on the high road, running, jogging, and all that? Well, Dr. Cooper has a fascinating new endeavor, but I'll let you read all about it.

Moving right along . . . .

Now that Mike Huckabee is more nearly a serious candidate, the mainstream media can no longer be casually contemptuous of his radical tax plan; now they have to be contemptuous at length.

The New York Times has a full column dedicated to telling us why it's crazy, and--as usual--insult our intelligence along the way.

By some estimates it could add 40 percent, if not more, to the cost of living.
No, it couldn't: it is designed to be revenue-neutral, meaning the government takes no more in sum than it does now. It could add up to 40% to the cost of many goods and services, but that's a very different animal if you have no taxes whatever coming out of your paycheck (or any other income).
[I]ts burden would fall disproportionately on middle-income people.
Pfui. Its burden would fall on those who spend the most. Last time I looked, what characterized the rich was that they spent more than the middle class. Has that changed while I wasn't looking?
Whatever the rate, critics say, a steep federal retail tax, piled on top of existing state sales taxes, would encourage widespread illegal tax evasion, black market transactions and other forms of cheating, creating a cycle that would require even higher tax rates.
How brain-dead can you get? The extent of cheating under the present godawful system chokes the imagination. This is the very same New York Times that not so long ago wrote that--
the Internal Revenue Service looked at both unreported income and improper deductions and concluded that Americans shortchanged the government by $345 billion in 2001 — an amount almost equal to the projected federal budget deficit for 2007.
And it's been getting worse. And that probably doesn't include corporate cheating, much less the quasi-legal artifices of "tax avoidance".

Meanwhile, how much are states losing from cheating on their various sales taxes? If it's a problem of consequence, they sure seem to be keeping it a secret. It's a very, very great deal harder to hide cheating on purchases of things than on income--and easier to expose and prove, too. Let's not be silly (oh, sorry, forgot, this is the once-respectable Times).
Like any tax on consumption, the biggest burden, comparatively, would fall on the poor. To help compensate for this, the plan would provide a monthly check from the government to every American household, rich and poor alike.
It is not "like and tax on consumption". Whether a tax on consumption unreasonably burdens lower-income households depends very sharply on what is taxed and how--in other words, on the details of a particular plan. It is a shibboleth oft repeated that sales taxes are regressive, but that's because the devil's in the details, not because they have to be.

I haven't looked at the details of Huckabee's plan, but from superficial skimming, I think it's in serious need of major fixing to avoid being unduly regressive or, on the other hand, needlessly and fatally complex.

But my point is that the general idea is being rejected out of hand, contemptuously, by people who are either idiots or liars, which does not intrinsically endear me to their line of argument.

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