First, a bit of an apology. Between being trapped in by The Blizzard Of Death, ’05 Edition, some long-overdue cleaning and rearranging, and the arrival of a boxed set of all five seasons of Babylon 5, I’ve been neglectful of my obligations here. On the plus side, I’m almost done with the first season and my bedroom is getting closer and closer to being Fit For Human Occupation.
But I shouldn’t procrastinate too long. Last week, I made a posting where I demonstrated how little I know about economics. In the comments section, I mused that if I were to post everything I knew, it’d be a nice, short post. So I thought I’d do it.
But this isn’t really about economics, per se, but about tax policy. Most of what I know about it is from reading P. J. O’Rourke’s Eat The Rich, one of the most insightful (and readable) pieces I’ve ever seen about economics. With that disclaimer, here’s what I believe I’ve learned:
1) The power to tax is the power to destroy. In short, if you want more of something, you subsidize it; if you want less, you tax it.
2) The government has no money of its own. All money the government has, it has taken from us through taxes, fees, fines, licenses, and whatnot. Keep that in mind when people talk about “free money from the government” and “it’s just the government’s money.”
3) Tax rebates aren’t money from the government. They’re just the government giving you back some of your own money that it already took.
4) Tax cuts aren’t the government giving you money. It’s just agreeing to take less of your money.
5) If you ever want to find the most expensive, least efficient, and least effective way to achieve a goal, have the government do it. It does a few things well, but for the most part success requires a personal commitment and investment on the part of those doing the work — and that’s damned rare in bureaucracies.
I know a lot of liberals agree with me. In Massachusetts, they have a two-tiered income tax. The standard rate is 5.3%, but taxpayers can choose to pay at the rate of 5.85% if they feel they owe the state more money. Last year, the rate of taxpayers who chose to pay the higher rate was less than .01% — or less than one in ten thousand. Massachusetts’ junior senator, Mr. Kerry, sided with the majority of his constituents and also chose to pay the lesser rate. It’s one of the areas where I happen to agree with Kerry — I’d pay the lesser rate, too.