WaPo Blogger: Millennials, Do Fight for Rolling Stone Reforms
|January 8, 2014||Posted by Staff under Good Press|
This 2014 excerpt of the Washington Post, Jan 7, is by Dylan Matthews.
A bit of a firestorm has been kicked up by Jesse Myerson’s piece, “Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For” in Rolling Stone. But when we at wonkblog read it, we recognized something odd: Frame the policies a bit differently and it sounds almost like a conservative wish list. Here’s the same post, with the same ideas, written from a conservative point of view:
Tear down the welfare bureaucracy
Food stamps must be spent on food, but what if the family receiving them needs help on rent more? Why should the government tell them how to spend their money, any more than it should tell the rest of us? Worst of all, the current, hugely bureaucratic system props up a class of unionized government workers who can’t be fired and who pension costs are bankrupting our states and cities.
The solution, as conservative and libertarian thinkers from Milton Friedman to Charles Murray to Guy Sorman to Veronique de Rugy have noted, is to burn down the bureaucracy and replace it with simple checks to everyone. This idea would treat all citizens equally rather than tagging a certain subset to receive help, and would eliminate any incentive that the poor have to live off of government programs, since they’d be at no risk of losing their benefits if they started work.
A basic income would shrink our bloated government, give people more choices, and break the culture of dependency in our poorest areas. What’s not to like?
Eliminate job-killing income, payroll, and corporate taxes
The government should at the very least do no harm to the economy. But our current tax system — which taxes heavily things we want more of (like income, investment, and savings) — creates huge burdens for businesses and individuals, disincentivizes investment in promising technology, and reduces the living standard of ordinary Americans.
So how about we get rid of literally every income and payroll tax in the federal government? No more withholding from your paycheck. No more capital gains tax when you make money from stocks. No more getting your pay dinged for Social Security and Medicare. No more companies worrying about what expenses are or are not tax deductible (and no more charities worrying about that, either). Just make all corporate and individual earnings completely tax-free.
As the great free-market advocate Henry George wrote in his book Progress and Poverty, there is a single tax that can and should replace all these, and do much less harm to the economy in the process. It’s called a land value tax, and it’s imposed on the value of land and other natural resources before improvements are made. So the owner of the Empire State Building would pay the same amount in land tax if the building stayed up or if it suddenly vanished tomorrow.
What’s great about this is that, while taxes on income discourage people making more money and hurt the economy, the most that land value taxation could do is discourage people from making more land. But, you can’t make more land. So there are no economic distortions. People buy and sell as they would in the absence of any taxes, and yet the government can still earn more than enough from a land tax to pay for the whole federal government. So let’s stop punishing job creation and implement the biggest supply-side tax reform in human history.
Ed. Notes: The writers listed three others but the two above are the keys, especially since one would fund the other. Both ideas could be extended to do even more good. Government could recover the socially-generated value of not just surface land but also natural resources, ecosystem services (something that pollution taxes do), and of government-granted privileges, such as corporate charters. We’re talking untold trillions here. All of it could fatten the Citizen’s Dividend so that people could do without even more government programs and even more bureaucracies could be eliminated. These two key ideas — getting then sharing the worth of Earth in lieu of taxes and subsidies — should appeal to left, right, and people who’re neither but simply rational (call them “geonomists”).