Posts Tagged ‘taxes’
Had I stayed away from the news websites, I wouldn’t have even noticed the federal government shutdown. Funny part about that is that I have a family member who works for the federal government, but she didn’t get furloughed since she works in a government agency that actually turns a profit with its services. Naturally, when an organization makes a profit it doesn’t have to furlough people when the rest of the federal government does.
I’m not going to debate whether one side is right or wrong or worse than the other in this blog. I’m just going to post a solution to the one problem that I saw most in the news and on social media: shutting down our national parks. I’m not going to debate if a 1000 square mile range of the ocean in Florida needs our federal government to stay open to fishermen or whether Mt. Rushmore needs federal employees to be open. This solution solves the debate. Here it is…
Have the National Park service issue multiple denomination certificates for the full amount of its annual budget that are a tax credit for those who purchase them and never have to be paid back. In essence, it’s a donation to our National Parks, but rather than just being a tax deduction like a charity, this is a tax credit because our federal government is using tax dollars to pay for the National Parks. It’s a $ for $ in tax money.
Obviously, the National Park service would incur some minor overhead for building and maintaining this system, so it can just add it to its budget. I’m betting that if you put it into an open bidding process you could easily find thousands of companies capable of building this platform.
This would help ensure that our National Parks remain open regardless of federal government wrangling. It would also serve as a model for other government entities for how they can become self sufficient and immune to federal government budgetary gridlock. There are numerous other benefits to this model such as helping to keep spending inline with revenue for the government as a whole and providing citizens with a greater say in how our tax dollars are spent. This idea isn’t just about avoiding shutdown furloughs that are back paid anyway. It’s a solution to an ongoing budget (or lack thereof) with our federal government.
Here are added incentives for our National Parks:
- Want that budget increase you could never get? Increase your budget and see if taxpayers are willing to pay for it
- If Congress acts now, there will be a flood of taxpayers willing to cover your entire fiscal calendar budget since there are just 2.5 months left in the tax year
Edit: Why not make a petition out of it? https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/taxpayer-direct-funding-national-parks/csP0c6Bh
Warren Buffet said it. Nick Hanauer said it. The rich should pay more taxes.
I have great news for them any *anyone* who wants to pay more “taxes”!!! They can do it right now! At this very moment!
Purchase more US Treasury Notes. Here’s the link: US Treasury Notes.
Guys like Hanauer can easily afford the tax accountant to ensure that any additional tax deduction from the Treasury Notes can be offset by purchasing even more of the Treasury Notes. Best part is that you don’t have to wait for Congress to pass a bill. They can start today!
I hear the cries of the supposed 99% (OCCUPY) folks. I’m in the 53%, the group of Americans that pays Federal and State income taxes. On top of that (like many Americans), I pay property taxes, gasoline taxes, sales taxes, and countless other government fees (including those 9/11 security fees on plane tickets). There are taxes upon taxes that I’m paying… and more taxes on top of all that.
While I think we should be on a bond-only system for funding our government programs, there’s an interim solution to getting there. One that wouldn’t be so radical: opt-out taxes. I’m not talking about being able to opt-out of Federal income taxes like my friend Jimbosway is likely to support. I’m talking about giving tax payers the right to opt-out of funding Federal programs with their tax dollars.
Where The Money Goes
This doesn’t mean you get a tax refund right away and the government losses all it’s money because nobody is going to want to fund any program. It just means that your tax dollars don’t get spent on something you don’t want them spent on. For example, if someone wants to not fund farm subsides for sugar in Florida, they opt-out of that program. If someone doesn’t want to fund NPR, opt-out. Etcetera.
We could even take it a step further and allow someone to change their funding from say sugar subsides to NASA, so NASA would have additional funding. You’d have to lock in your choices for a year at a time. This way, each program will know what it’s budget is for the coming year.
Now, what happens to the opt-out money? Well, let’s just face it. That’s a problem we’re not going to have to worry about for another $1+ trillion dollars. However, eventually, there could be a budget surplus as government programs are defunded. There’s nothing wrong with a government surplus. When that happens, and if it runs surplus long enough then the government will know how much money each taxpayer should receive back. That’s pretty simple and fair.
This will also put a tremendous amount of accountability onto the shoulders of US (that’s an emphasized us, not United States – well, United States citizens…) If we don’t want to support programs like TARP and bailout programs, we don’t fund them. Now, people will say things like: TARP was an emergency. We couldn’t wait a year to get that funding. I’ll just laugh at that argument. Unless you were John McCain, you saw it coming!
Another HUGE benefit of this is that it would give us massive government transparency. Rather than transparency being a punchline in an Obama speech, it becomes a reality! We’ll know what programs are receiving how much funding, and more importantly we’ll know what the hell the programs are! If someone is spending your hard earned money, don’t you think you should know where it’s spent? It’s not like the government agencies need to send us postcards or pictures of the kids we’re helping like a charity does. But we will at least know that our money isn’t going to fund a program that we don’t support.
Technology has advanced significantly over the last few decades. Yet, our political system and taxes are way behind on utilizing technology to better themselves. We can create and easily maintain massive databases that would house this information and allow our budgeting to be based upon democratic taxation.
Other Ways the Government Can Still Steal Our Money
And Congress members who love to spend money like it’s going out of style need not fret. They can still work on pork belly programs! Pass whatever spending they want with the existing methods they now have. Fund it just like they do now. If we the people decide to provide them with the funding, the program can continue on. If we don’t, the program dies.
Congress could also go about imposing “fees” instead of using income tax dollars. Just look at your cell phone bills or airplane tickets to see examples of those. They could go about imposing other use taxes (perhaps a national sales tax, since they’re already talking about it anyway).
None of these worry me because if we did have an opt-out system in place and Congress did try to go about stealing more money from our pockets, we’d be more educated about what is going on with our government on a greater scale than we do know. We’d have a much greater vested interest in where our money is being spent/wasted. The second Congress tried to implement a national sales tax or additional fees, we’d put a stop to it.
I also think that our greater involvement with the spending of our taxes dollars would turn the tables on today’s political thinking. Right now, Congress can just go pass any spending bill they want without much accountability to their constituents. With an opt-out system in place, Congress is going to have to go back to the people they serve and ask them to support their decisions. Congress is going to have to explain why they’re voting yes on spending more money. Opt-out make Congress accountable to the people they serve!
The pay-per-mile idea is gaining momentum like a big rig at the top of the Grapevine… Why this would even be a consideration as opposed to raising the federal gas tax is further proof of how our Federal government is lousy at making any kind of reasonable infrastructure proposal.
First, it has been our governments pushing vehicle manufacturers to become more fuel efficient. Didn’t they consider that if you push the vehicles to go from and average of 15MPG to 30MPG you’re going lose half of your gas tax revenue??? Did that not cross anyone’s mind? It’s simple math!
Second, and most importantly, a pay-per-mile tax is a bad idea because it taxes those who drive vehicles that put less wear and tear on our roads (e.g. small vehicles) at the same rate as vehicles that put more wear and tear on our roads (e.g. large vehicles). Unless the government plans on taxing large vehicles differently than small vehicles. Gas tax doesn’t have this problem. Larger vehicles are inherently lower MPG than smaller vehicles.
Third, certain roads require more maintenance than other roads. Weather conditions really dictate how long a road is going to last. So, some poor sap living in a mild climate region is going to be subsidizing someone living in a inclement region.
Raise gas taxes! Or better yet, make roads toll roads… Or even better! Issue Highway bonds (and make the purchase of them 100% income tax deductible)! For those traveling the open road, I’m sure they’ll be more than willing to plop down some money on highway bonds. It’s a good investment!
I hear/read something about states imposing sales taxes on Internet businesses just about every week now. Mostly, it’s about the Amazon case with California. There’s no surprise that this was going to happen. No surprise at all. Local retailers keep pointing to the fact that Amazon’s customers don’t have to pay sales tax as a major reason the giant Internet retailer is doing so well. It’s a legitimate claim. If you can save 8%+ on your purchase just by purchasing online, why not?
So, the solution is to start taxing Amazon, right? WRONG!
The solution is so much easier and better: get rid of the sales tax on your local stores!
You’re not going to hear something so like this come out of Sacramento though. That would be too simple and intelligent. Of course, that would obliterate a massive revenue stream for cities, counties, and states, right? Of course it would. They count on that money for their services. So, they just need to make up for it with an increase in property taxes. WHAT?!?! Can’t we just get rid of taxes altogether? Well, one could argue that point, but it would take decades to completely get rid of all taxes and replace them with bond measures and an opt-in taxation policy. And that’s definitely beyond the scope of this blog article.
I have a ton of liberal friends. I really have been enjoying their flames about the evil rich and wealthy not paying their fair share of taxes and the cold-hearted Republicans and Tea Party folks who want to defund NPR and Planned Parenthood.
Rather than just buying into whatever posts my Lib friends on Twitter and Facebook were posting, I decided to do a little research about this “elite 1%” of Americans that eat newborn children for breakfast… There wasn’t much research that needed to be done. It’s a pretty simple check: How much does the top 1% earn as a portion of the total USA income? How much does the top 1% pay as a portion of the total USA Federal taxes?
Finally something that Congress has done a good job with! Their 2009 paper on taxes between 1979 to 2006! Congress summed it up pretty well:
“… the highest quintile earned 55.7 percent of pretax income and paid 69.3 percent of federal taxes, while the top 1 percent of households earned 18.8 percent of income and paid 28.3 percent of taxes. In all other quintiles, the share of federal taxes was less than the income share.”
Today’s article in “Wired” regarding the automobiles you may want but can’t have is a clear example of our tax dollars put to good use. No need to be reducing Federal government spending or cutting the budget on things like blocking a car from entering the United States until it is 25 years old, if ever…
American capitalism is dead.
I’m sensationalizing a bit with the first sentence, but the reality is that American capitalism is on life support. We’re propping up a facade of capitalism and millions of people are blaming “deregulation” (to slander the ideals of capitalism) on this long drawn out “recession”. I’m using a lot of “quotes” here because “deregulation” is a misnomer and the “recession” is really a depression masked by bogus inflation numbers and massive government deficit spending and a decline in the value of the US Dollar. That last sentence was a mouthful, so let’s start with these myths…
Deregulation is defined as the act of freeing from regulation, particularly government regulation. The idea that the federal government deregulated the banks is much like the idea that The Constitution clearly uses the words “separation of church and state”. Deregulation, in the sense that is being used to slander capitalism, was merely a change in the regulations by the government that created holes that thousands of bankers and millions of consumers took advantage of.
Nobody can take a loan out for 125% of the value of their home and honest think there is nothing wrong with that. Just like nobody can offer a loan at 125% of the value of a home and not think there is nothing wrong with that. Just like nobody in the Federal government can pickup a newspaper from 10 years ago about 125% loans and not think there is something wrong. If you can, you’re exactly why we are in the banking mess we are today.
Recession is defined as a decline in GDP, employment, and trading lasting a period of six months to a year. Earlier, I referred to bogus inflation numbers and massive government deficit spending and a decline in the value of the USD. First, the inflation numbers don’t require a rocket scientist (because supposed economists clearly aren’t capable of the math) to figure out that they are false.
Simply take a look at what goes into calculating the Consumer Price Index (CPI). You will find few line items where the government is not heavily subsidizing/regulating that industry. Given that the federal government is more than $14 trillion in debt, it’s pretty clear that inflation numbers are considerably underestimated. If you didn’t follow that last part, I’ll help explain: if is costs you $3.15 for a gallon of milk at the grocery store but the federal government is providing subsidizes to milk producers to the tune of $0.50/gallon, the true cost of a gallon of milk for you is actually $3.65. I’ll admit that I haven’t done the research to find out the exact $/gallon of milk the subsidizes equate to, but you can get the point. Now, count this over the hundreds of entitlement programs the Federal government spends money on, and you have a real problem with the calculation of the CPI (inflation).
To further exacerbate the national debt issue, people don’t really consider the buildup of interest on the national debt as part of the total problem. This isn’t that unusual. A lot of people in business often forget about how borrowing money from a bank or investors requires payments that impact the actual bottom line of the company. Here’s a simple way to think about it: when the Federal government was over budget by $455 billion in 2008, the total increase in national debt was actually more than $1 trillion.
This all compounds!
When you include the devaluation of the USD abroad and the fact that we purchase so much product from overseas and that it takes 6+ months for that devaluation to ripple its way into our prices, you get rest assured that there are much higher prices coming to a store near you very soon…
Now, let’s get back to capitalism. At the beginning of this article, I needed to dismiss the myth of low inflation over the last decade so that we could really see that this “recession” is indeed a depression (I’m betting that decades from now, we will finally admit in our history textbooks that the numbers were wrong and that this is a depression).
Capitalism has been slandered by the myth of deregulation. Deregulation was a change in regulation that anyone sane and honorable would have realized had massive holes that were being taken advantage of. Nobody wanted to halt the good times, so our governments (which could have done something about it) did nothing for years! That’s NOT deregulation. It wasn’t an act of capitalism. Plenty of people warned for years about pending doom, and they were dismissed as pessimistic and bearish.
However, these aren’t the true measure of capitalism’s comatose state. The true measure is that we look to our politicians to “create jobs” and provide “bailouts”. What is capitalistic about bailouts? NOTHING! What is capitalistic about too big to fail? NOTHING! The funniest part about “too big to fail” is that the giant banks that were too big to fail were merged with existing banks, making those new banks too bigger to fail! Why weren’t the banks broken up into smaller pieces with the non-profitable sections written off and offset by “bailout” money? But I digress, and that’s for another sub-1000 word blog.
The Capitalist mindset in this economy would be this: What can I improve, change, or invent that would make a profit, provide jobs, and improve our economy. Instead, we are waiting for Obama to create more Federal jobs, and the “Republicans” are spewing forth their usual taxes rhetoric. Even Sarah Palin is talking about how can the federal government create jobs and stimulate the economy. What would best stimulate the economy would be a strong USD position, 10% reduction in all federal government spending and an increase in taxes. Of course, anyone will say I’m crazy and it wouldn’t work. Because it obviously didn’t work in the 90s when Clinton did it, right?
I’m sure some liberal is going to say that I’m an tax-cut loving Republican without even reading this blog in its entirety or weighing my argument against his/her already set way of thinking about taxes…
Without getting to abstract… I really have been asking myself: What is the purpose of taxation on consumption?
To answer that, I first need to examine some existing taxes:
Taxes on the sale of gasoline make sense. We have public roads. The tax (in theory) should help cover the development and maintenance of those public roads. This seems like a logical. Short of making all the roads toll roads (which is riddled with all sorts of other problems that I’m not going to dive into on this blog), taxation on the consumption of gasoline for the purposes of paying for public roads makes sense.
Property taxes make sense as well. You own property and reap the many rewards of utilities, police, etc. You might be saying, “Wait! I also pay for my utilities.” That may be true, but those utilities are utilizing government property (e.g. land) to transport those utilities. The real issue at hand here is that as a property owner you are using government property that it could otherwise utilize. Hence, property taxes. This tax makes sense.
Sales Taxes… In the two examples above, you are utilizing government property to your benefit. However, in the case of sales tax on a car, tv, laptop, or any other product that a company produces with its own resources, sales tax doesn’t make sense. One can argue that the companies produce products using government property, but that argument is abundantly weak at best. The reality is that sales tax has no purpose other than that the governments found them to be a simple way to tax (and easily increase taxes).
I’m not going to argue that sales tax revenue isn’t used for government services that may be useful. What I’m arguing is that sales taxes have no solid foundation and, more importantly, greatly stifle economic development. In many counties in California, the sales tax is at or above 10% This means that all taxable sales are 10% higher than they really need to be. This means that we as consumers must pay an additional 10% over what the product actual costs us.
We aren’t talking about pennies here! Purchase a $20,000 automobile and it very quickly becomes $22,000. That’s an additional 10% that you have to pay for what? What are you getting for that 10%??? More importantly, what would you do if you didn’t have to pay that additional 10%? Certainly, not everything that we purchase has sales tax on it, but try holding onto your receipts for a year. Add up all the sales tax… That’s a lot of money! What could you have done with that money?
What if you took that extra 10% and put it into a savings account? What if you used the 10% to payoff your mortgage faster? What if you could put that 10% into a college tuition fund for your children? What if you could put that 10% into a fund for your health care later on in life? What if you could put that 10% into a retirement fund? That 10% is going to add up to be quite a bit of money very quickly.
Every sales tax you pay prevents you from spending or saving that much more money. The banks have less money in their reserves (theoretically leading to lower lending abilities) because the government is taxing you 10% Companies have less revenue because the government is taxing you 10% The only entity with more from the 10% taxation is the government.
To be fair, governments do provide jobs to people. However, governments are largely inefficient, and it’s hardly a good idea to count on the government to create jobs with that 10% when there are plenty of private companies that will do much better with creating jobs, innovative new products, and technological breakthroughs with that 10% Governments would be far better off not taking the 10% from their constituents and visitors and coming up with another method to gain tax revenue. I’ll save that topic for another blog.
In short, a sales tax is nothing more than punishing consumers and businesses for doing business.