Showing posts tagged tax policy
(Reblogged from letterstomycountry)
Oddly, one never hears Republicans praise those countries where people are lucky duckies — those where taxation is a small fraction of what it is here.

I’d Rather Be an Unlucky Ducky
Bruce Bartlett 

Equatorial Guinea: According to the Republican-leaning Heritage Foundation, those who live in this small country in sub-Saharan Africa are lucky duckies indeed. Because of recently discovered oil deposits, the citizens of Equatorial Guinea pay less than 1 percent of the gross domestic product in taxes. The comparable figure for the United States is 26.9 percent of G.D.P., according to Heritage.

However, Equatorial Guinea doesn’t seem to be a very pleasant place to live. The people are poor and have little freedom. Heritage says that “persistent institutional weaknesses impede creation of a more vibrant private sector” and “the rule of law is weak.” This sounds suspiciously as if government is too small to do its job properly. But I’m sure that the citizens of Equatorial Guinea don’t mind having a dysfunctional government; after all, they’re lucky duckies.

Myanmar: The people who live in this small country in Southeast Asia are also lucky duckies, if not quite as lucky as those in Equatorial Guinea. According to Heritage, taxes in Myanmar are 3 percent of G.D.P.

Oddly, this also doesn’t sound like someplace one would want to live. Heritage says “longstanding structural problems include poor public finance management and undeveloped legal and regulatory frameworks.” Apparently, the government doesn’t protect property rights very well, the infrastructure is poor, and there is a lot of corruption. But at least the people get to keep almost all their earnings.

Libya: Why the people revolted in this North African fiscal paradise is a mystery. According to Heritage, government revenues are just 3.4 percent of G.D.P.

ChadHeritage says the people of this African nation pay just 5.3 percent of G.D.P. in taxes. But for some reason, the nation is mired in poverty. Perhaps because, as Heritage says, “the efficiency and quality of government remain poor.” I wonder why.

Republic of Congo: The people of this country in Africa also pay 5.3 percent of G.D.P. to the government. But it is also very poor. Heritage says a key reason is “the government has failed to provide basic public goods and infrastructure.” This doesn’t really make much sense by the logic of Republican candidates, who seem to agree that all government spending is bad unless it goes to the Defense Department and that public works are nothing but worthless pork.

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(via manicchill)

This, to me, is pretty much a direct refutation of the Anarcho-Capitalist school of Libertarianism.  According to the popular wisdom of that school, minimal regulation and taxation should be causing these countries to thrive.  And yet their standard of living compared to 1st-world countries with strong central governments is abysmal.

With that being said: you could very reasonably make the argument that the minimal governments of these countries are nonetheless oppressive and larcenous, so what little wealth is accumulated in the market tends to be appropriated by the elites.  But the question then becomes *how* that wealth is being appropriated; is it through official channels?  Then it would show up as taxation.  Is it through thuggery?  Then how could the problem be solved without reverting to Somalia-style balkanization (which is better only when compared to the more awful government preceding it)?  

The question, then, is one of form: without a strong Constitution to limit government power, and an intellectually vibrant, Independent Judiciary to keep government in check, there is no way for the rights of citizens to be guaranteed as against their unscrupulous peers, and as against the government itself.  

Yet courts in of themselves are Government.  All of these mechanisms cost money.  A minimalist State can be just as dangerous to Liberty and freedom as an oppressive one.  Norway, whose government accounts for 40% of its GDP, nonetheless has a very libertine criminal justice system.  There can be no question that people in Norway are more free than even people in the U.S. (who live under the Patriot Act, the War on Drugs, and the Military Commissions Act).  Yet the U.S. government accounts for closer to 20% of GDP.

Does that mean government spending as a % of GDP is dispositive with respect to freedom?  Of course not.  Form matters.  But if you aren’t bringing in enough tax revenue to support the “right” form, then Bartlett’s observation is right: you end up with a government too weak to provide a mechanism for enforcing the rights of its own citizens (i.e. an independent and well-funded judiciary paired with an enumerated Constitution).

(via letterstomycountry)

(Source: manicchill)

(Reblogged from letterstomycountry)
(Reblogged from pieceinthepuzzlehumanity-deacti)
(Reblogged from letterstomycountry)

The U.S.: Still Well To The Left Side Of The Laffer Curve


Yglesias pulls a quote out from a recent paper by Peter Diamond and Emmanuel Saez that all Progressives should read if they really want to understand the economic case for progressive taxation, rather than relying solely on valid-yet-vague ideas about social justice and fairness:

When a tax system offers tax avoidance or evasion opportunities, the tax base in a given year is quite sensitive to tax rates, so that the elasticity e is large, and the optimal top tax rate is correspondingly low. Two important qualifications must be made. First, as mentioned above, many of the tax avoidance channels such as re-timing or income shifting produce changes in tax revenue in other periods or other tax bases—called “tax externalities”—and hence do not decrease the optimal tax rate. Saez, Slemrod, Giertz (2011) provide formulas showing how the optimal top tax rate should be modified in such cases. Second, and most important, the tax avoidance or evasion component of the elasticity e is not an immutable parameter and can be reduced through base broadening and tax enforcement (Slemrod and Kopczuk, 2002; Kopczuk, 2005). Thus, the distinction between real responses and tax avoidance responses is critical for tax policy. As an illustration using the different elasticity estimates of Gruber and Saez (2002) for high income earners mentioned above, the optimal top tax rate using the current taxable income base (and ignoring tax externalities) would be τ*=1/(1+1.5 x 0.57)=54 percent while the optimal top tax rate using a broader income base with no deductions would be τ=1/(1+1.5 x 0.17)=80 percent. Taking as fixed state and payroll tax rates, such rates correspond to top federal income tax rates equal to 48 and 76 percent, respectively. Although considerable uncertainty remains in the estimation of the long-run behavioral responses to top tax rates (Saez, Slemrod, Giertz, 2011), the elasticity e=0.57 is a conservative upper bound estimate of the distortion of top U.S. tax rates. Therefore, the case for higher rates at the top appears robust in the context of this model.

For those unfamiliar with the Laffer Curve and its impact on tax policy, see my post on the subject here. 

(Reblogged from letterstomycountry)


Income inequality is bad for rich people too | Yves Smith

One of the major fights in the debt ceiling battle is how much top earners should contribute to efforts to close deficits. Australian economist John Quiggin makes an eloquent case as to why they need to pony up:

My analysis is quite simple and follows the apocryphal statement attributed to Willie Sutton. The wealth that has accrued to those in the top 1 per cent of the US income distribution is so massive that any serious policy program must begin by clawing it back.

If their 25 per cent, or the great bulk of it, is off-limits, then it’s impossible to see any good resolution of the current US crisis. It’s unsurprising that lots of voters are unwilling to pay higher taxes, even to prevent the complete collapse of public sector services. Median household income has been static or declining for the past decade, household wealth has fallen by something like 50 per cent (at least for ordinary households whose wealth, if they have any, is dominated by home equity) and the easy credit that made the whole process tolerable for decades has disappeared. In these circumstances, welshing on obligations to retired teachers, police officers and firefighters looks only fair.

In both policy and political terms, nothing can be achieved under these circumstances, except at the expense of the top 1 per cent. This is a contingent, but inescapable fact about massively unequal, and economically stagnant, societies like the US in 2010. By contrast, in a society like that of the 1950s and 1960s, where most people could plausibly regard themselves as middle class and where middle class incomes were steadily rising, the big questions could be put in terms of the mix of public goods and private income that was best for the representative middle class citizen. The question of how much (more) to tax the very rich was secondary – their share of national income was already at an all time low.

And the fares of the have versus the have-nots continue to diverge. A new survey found that 64% of the public doesn’t have enough funds on hand to cope with a $1000 emergency. Wages are falling for 90% of the population. And disabuse yourself of the idea that the rich might decide to bestow their largesse on the rest of us. Various studies have found that upper class individuals are less empathetic and altruistic than lower status individuals.

This outcome is not accidental. Taxes on top earners are the lowest in three generations. Yet their complaints about the prospect of an increase to a level that is still awfully low by recent historical standards is remarkable. [read more]

(Reblogged from pieceinthepuzzlehumanity-deacti)