Monday, April 26, 2010

VAT This

Matt Welch reacts to the Obama Administration's decision to make the campaign for a Value-Added Tax (VAT) more obvious...
Compared to the H&R Block subsidy program that is the US tax code, the VAT is a straightforward way for governments to skim 20% or so off the top of every transaction. By penalizing consumption and not earnings, it encourages savings and resists gaming by well-connected special interests. In an ideal world, you could enact a VAT while slashing America’s corporate income tax rate, which is the globe’s second-highest.

But as the last 18 months of federal misgovernance has aptly demonstrated, we do not live in anything like an ideal world.

The only reason VAT is even on the table right now is that bureaucrats like VAT enthusiast Nancy Pelosi have an appetite for spending that far outpaces Americans’ willingness to cough up their hard-earned dough. Every statehouse and city council across the land is literally out of money, and turning to the only people who can print the stuff: Washington.

The federal government spent $3.5 trillion last year while taking in just $2.1 trillion, producing a deficit-to-Gross Domestic Product ratio of 10%, a level not seen since World War II. By contrast, the European Union requires member countries to keep deficits at 3% of GDP. If America was in Europe, we’d be Greece.

What’s worse for us is that we’ve pretty much given up trying to address the root problem, which is the decade long spending binge initiated by George W. Bush and then tripled down on by Barack Obama. The VAT isn’t a way to streamline a complicated tax code; it’s a new spigot to flood money into the pockets of teachers who can’t be fired, and securities regulators who can’t get enough porn.
If only the VAT proceeds would go toward more porn, we might get real economic stimulus. Seriously, I'm not sure who has the actual ability to pass a massive new tax following the health care debacle, although that debacle is pretty much the reason we'll need new federal revenues. The problem, which I'm not sure is fully appreciated in Washington, is that any such tax may lead to real consideration for something many Americans find far more attractive than new spending -- a new and reformed government, with Constitutional changes that would kill the income tax entirely.

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