Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Killing Trees

Andrew Sullivan yesterday posted the Chart of the Day, showing the increasing complexity of the United States Tax Code.

Since I entered the work force officially in 1985, the amount of pages in the tax code has nearly tripled. At what point does this become absolutely unsustainable? What, say about 1945? Can this chart be any more indicative of a central government gone over the edge? And before you conservatives start laying blame for this crap at the foot of liberals, let's look closely at the data:
  • From 1984 to 1995, Republicans were in power for eight of those 11 years. There was an increase in pages of the Tax Code from 26,300 to 40,500, or 54%.
  • From 2000 to 2011, Republicans were in power for nine of those 11 years. There was an increase in pages of the Tax Code from 46,900 to 72,536, or 55%.
  • From 1995 to 2000, Democrats were in power. There was an increase in pages of the Tax Code from 40,500 to 46,900, or 16%.
This is not a perfect analysis of the data, as Democrats had control of Congress during much of the Reagan, George HW Bush, and George W Bush administrations, and Republicans dominated during the Clinton years. But the impetus for massive tax cuts and changes to the tax laws, which would add reams of pages to the Code, came from Republicans. Considering how this is the party which consistently mouths the words "limited government" during election cycles, it's pretty clear that they have no clue what they're really talking about (or doing).

Like Bruce Bartlett, I favor a complete overhaul of the tax code and actually envision a time when we have a VAT or a flat tax in this country. We have got to stop carving out niches for every single interest group in this country, to the point where it takes thousands and thousands of workers to sift through those dead trees (or, now, the increased bandwidth) and make sure that filed returns comply with the Code. I support a non-regressive version of a consumption tax, where everyone contributes an equal share of their consumption in the form of taxes, whether or not they own a home. There could be deductions for certain things that tend to foster inequality, like the cost of home ownership being higher than renting or spending money on green initiatives like solar power or hybrid/electric cars. And yes, I would also support job creation blitzes, which would give corporations and small businesses the ability to reduce their tax exposure during a window when job growth was vitally important (like it is now).

This sort of tax would serve two primary purposes: 1) it would be a cash cow for the government and bring down the national debt much faster and balance the budget much more easily, and 2) it would simplify the way the nation manages its money.

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