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    The burden

    Michael explains his support for the Fair Tax. (I kind of understand why that choice of name is shrewd, though it seems to me that the old designation National Sales Tax was more transparent and not all that scary. Reason solicited a bunch of opinions about whether the Fair Tax or the Flat Tax was a better replacement for the current Income Tax a decade or so ago. It’s still worth reading.)

    You won’t be surprised to see libertarian me endorse the idea. You also won’t be surprised to see Japan-resident me wonder whether it’s realistic to expect to be able to extirpate a deep-rooted bureaucracy that’s used to exercising a great deal of arbitrary power over citizens’ money and privacy and knows how to play the system (largely because in a significant way it is the system). In that Reason piece, the Cato Institute’s Edward R. Crane articulates the chief worry:

    Critics of a federal retail sales tax who point to the danger of politicians simply adopting the retail sales tax on top of reduced rates for the present system have a very legitimate concern. The last thing we should want would be a sales tax in addition to the taxes we already have. The movement for the sales tax must reject any deal that allows the income tax to survive even at one-half of 1 percent.

    The danger of a monstrous hybrid “reform” is very real, in my opinion. People bitch about income taxes, and everyone hates the IRS, but we’re used to them. A lot of Americans who don’t understand much about math and money could probably be pretty easily scared away by warnings that they’ll end up poorer under the new system. A lot of Americans who are affluent and keep track of their money have a stake in keeping their own constellations of deductions just as they are…and finding ways to get others to pay in more. A lot of tax lawyers and accountants (not exactly groups that lack connections) would not quietly resign themselves to being forced to look for a new line of work.

    Of course, defeatism isn’t part of the American mindset, and as Michael says, gays in particular have reason to bestir ourselves over the income tax issue:

    Much of the discussion surrounding the marriage equality debate has been focused on the more than 1000 tax benefits married couples receive that gay people cannot. And that’s a big point. Not to diminish the debate over marriage equality, but when it comes right down to it, the difference between a married couple and a gay unmarried couple comes largely down to money.

    Those of us with partners who are foreign nationals have issues that come into play a bit before the money part, but Michael’s essentially right.

    Speaking of the federal government and money, am I the only one who LAUGHED OUT LOUD at that proposal to give citizens a $100 rebate for gas money? I mean, people have been saying it’s stupid, but it was so…rube-ish. The legislative branch of the US government looks forward to serving you ($100 that you yourself earned, anyway) again!!!! Sheesh.

    3 Responses to “The burden”

    1. Aron says:

      Not so. The legislative branch is going to give you $100 that it borrowed from the Chinese and Japanese, and you can pay the interest on it. Given that outlays for interest on the debt ($275 billion last year) are equal to about 30% of individual income tax payments ($927 billion), who’s gonna notice?

      No, you were not the only one to laugh.

    2. Michael says:


      I can’t think of a better term to describe it!! And Aron is right. It’s borrowed money that we’ll have to pay the interest on.

    3. Sean Kinsell says:

      Aron, yes, I know that if you snatch any random federal $100 bill, the probability is considerable that it could be tagged as unrepatriated Japanese or Chinese money. (Trust me, when you’re a US expat in East Asia, that issue’s never far from your mind.) It’s just that when congress starts talking about giving money back to taxpayers–in that insufferable tone of condescending magnanimity–it seems to me that the proper question is what it’s doing with it in the first place.

      And that’s not even considering the fact that getting all these rebates out would incur costs for labor, physical plant, and the printing of checks cheerily proclaiming, “The United States Congress is PASSING THE SAVINGS INTEREST ON TO YOU!”

      Michael, I very frequently think congress is pretty lame, but it’s rare that it flat-out embarrasses me. The National Confederation of Hall Monitors mentality of federal government obtains here in Tokyo, too, after all. You can’t expect congresscritters to stop their crass attempts at vote-buying, but they could at least not be so cloddish in the process. Yuck.

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