Opinionated @ CFE

Want transparency in taxation? Corporate income taxes have to go

Oct
24

One of the most important parts of taxation is being able to tell how much you are paying and what is it being spend on. The best example of this transparency in taxation is the itemized property tax bill you get in the mail once a year. You get a break down of how much you’re paying, what the money is going towards, and how it compares to last year. This creates a connection between what you pay and what you get. Gasoline excise taxes, which are clearly posted on pumps, create the same effect. Sales taxes get a little fuzzier since while portions of them are often earmarked for specific purposes, most of it goes into a slush fun. By the time you get to the “who knows where it goes” personal income tax, you have a level of taxation so opaque that we can’t quite figure out what the money is spent on, but at least we know how much we’re paying.

No so for corporate income taxes. As much as we’d love to believe the myth that cigar-chomping mustachioed men in smoke-filled rooms are having to dip into their Scrooge McDuck vault to pony up their tax bill, it just isn’t so. Businesses always build their costs into their products and services, and most of them aren’t really going to let on as to how much of their retail cost goes to specific purposes. Quick: how much of Ford’s taxes did you pay when you purchased that new pickup? You have no idea, and that’s the problem. It’s not just that you’re paying a hidden tax either. Companies spend as much (or, in the case of  GE more than) finding ways to not pay taxes as they do in checks to Uncle Sam.

And this gets down to a very simple truth: companies do not pay taxes, people do. The consumers of the product are the ones shouldering it, but they don’t even get the benefit of knowing how much it is. Ending the corporate income tax doesn’t raise taxes on people, it just makes those previously unknown costs known while eliminating the loopholes that corporate collectivists are so fond of using. Doesn’t that sound like a refreshing idea?

Having the Wrong Argument

Oct
22

For far too long, those who want to shrink the federal government have been focused on the ineffectual arguments that individual programs are immoral, illegal, and/or unconstitutional. Despite decades of making these arguments, the scope of the federal government continues to increase as they fail to gain traction with the greater public. It is a much more effective argument to instead attack the efficacy (or lack thereof) of federal programs. It is a much easier argument to conclusively prove and appeals to our collective sense of local is better. It also does not proscribe state and/or local governments from considering such programs should their citizens so choose it.

Redistricting Histrionics

Oct
18

Last night, the Utah Legislature finally signed off on a map for Congressional districts. Unsurprisingly, more than a few individuals were engaged in over-the-top weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth that could teach William Shanter more than a few things about over-acting. While I can accept a lot of legitimate complaints about the final product (it’s not my first choice either), a lot of the claims made by critics are either logically inconsistent or flat-out lies.

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I Think We Won the “War on Terror”

Oct
17

Has anyone else noticed that the only “terrorism” cases the FBI seems to get and prosecute these days are the ones where the players have been setup? When that isn’t the case, it’s because alert passengers on a plane learned to fight back. If this is the sole way we can get terrorism cases, I think we can call the “war on terror” won and bring our troops home now.

Occupy Wall Street and Missed Opportunities

Oct
05

Right now, large protests are going on in New York City and are starting to spread to other cities. People fed up with being out of work, with losing their homes, and with the powerful interests who caused the problem getting all kinds of favors have hit their breaking point. After a few years of changing out the bums in Congress (I won’t go so far as to say they were thrown out), they have no faith left in the political system to resolve their problems. And yet, somehow, the reform-minded economic right has completely blown the opportunity to sell their solutions.

What are many of them doing? For the most part, they’re busy insulting the protesters. The endless barrage of jokes about worthless liberal arts degrees, living in mom’s basement, and not showering are a sophomoric and demeaning way to reply to anyone who is suffering. In contrast, the left is out there standing in solidarity selling the illogical idea that the government that caused and perpetuates the problem can somehow fix it. If you were one of those people, who would you be listening to?

This is a missed opportunity to push for the destruction of crony capitalism and the decentralization of public and private power that creates and reinforces it. People are angry for the right reasons. Banks got trillions of dollars for destroying the economy so that they can now foreclose on the people to whom they fraudulently sold bad mortgages. Colleges are calling loans on degrees they’ve been hyping, overselling, and over-pricing for decades, a collusion across an entire industry. Congress is continually passing laws with no relevance to the problems of the common man despite having been significantly turned over in the last several elections. It’s the perfect storm to finally dismantle the systems that are killing the country.

By blowing this opportunity and engaging in tone-deaf messaging, you can almost bet that the solutions will be more of the same. More regulation that will be manipulated to create winners and losers. More ruinous over-spending on programs that promote dependency instead of independence. More members of Congress who say they feel our pain but simply create it. I suppose I shouldn’t expect any better from the guys who have been promoting the low-information tea party.

The Redistricting Lawsuit Blunder

Oct
03

Every decision we make is a calculated risk, trying to figure out if the reward and odds of success are worth the potential pain. Most of the time, we do fairly well. Every now and again, someone, somewhere, will make such a boneheaded miscalculation that the rest of us will scratch our heads and go “huh?” Utah Democratic Party Chair Jim Dababkis is having one of those moments right now.

For those of you not paying attention, Dababkis threatened a lawsuit over the current redistricting effort due to perceived gerrymandering. I’ve looked at some of the proposed maps and, yes, I think the Sumsion 6 Congressional one in particular is a real stinker. It’s kind of a problem, though, to threaten to sue over a map that hasn’t even been adopted yet. Already some substantively different maps have been seriously discussed (including one from Speaker Lockhart that actually looks half-decent), and there’s still plenty of time for back-and-forth to create more new maps. Throwing down the threat now is petulant foot-stomping.

This doesn’t even get into the risk/reward problem that following through on such a threat presents. Consider that the odds of winning a lawsuit on redistricting are extremely slim. Even if such a suit succeeded, we’re talking about maybe 3-4 total seats affected in the legislature. And the cost? I’d say a good six figures after all of the inevitable appeals. (Them lawyers don’t come cheap.) It’s a very high cost with a very small reward and a very high risk. The money might as well be put on red down in Vegas.

The whole affair has been correctly pegged as grandstanding. Dababkis isn’t enough of a rank amateur to think that any suit filed would actually succeed, but he knows that he can score a bunch of political points with the party faithful, even if it is a complete waste of their rather limited funds. Unfortunately, it’ll stop there, and fail to resonate with the rest of the electorate.

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