Thursday, June 5, 2014

Taxes Are The Dues For Living in a Democracy

I have been fortunate to over the past few mornings to note the period between extreme stillness in the rural countryside I live in with the first voices of the birds. Each day here in EDT the arrival of the sounds of morning arrive between 5:00-5:10 a.m. If you want to know Why Birds Sing in the Morning, there is a wonderful story from Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame that you should know and share with your children or grandchildren, or heck, any living breathing being. This story was one of my favorites, as well as for the many hundreds of school kids I was able to share it with, from his first book for children, Fairy Tales, that we bought for our daughter Alex when she was a toddler. The early edition was accompanied with wonderful water color images from Michael Foreman.

But I digress. After a few minutes of enjoying the conversations of the ornithological world outside my window, I arose to my early morning reading ritual with a fresh cup of coffee. Today's entree was a truly juicy piece of analysis and proposed remedies of our tax system released just a week ago by Nobel recognized economist Joseph Stiglitz. I can't recommend this 28 page White Paper, Reforming Taxation to Promote Growth and Equity  published by the Roosevelt Institute highly enough.

 

Stiglitz doesn't confound us citizens with difficult econometrics, although there are 70 footnotes for those that want to go deeper, but instead cuts to the chase with little jargon.

In the paper he does a quick review of the current U.S. economic situation. A quick example of his erudite and cogent analysis -

     It is important to dispel a misunderstanding that one often hears from advocates of lower taxes for the rich and corporations, which contends that the rich are the job producers, and anything that reduces their income will reduce their ability and incentive to create jobs. First, at the current time, it is not the lack of funds that is holding back investment. It is not even weak and dysfunction financial sector. America's large corporations are sitting on more than $2 trillion in cash. What is holding back investment, especially for large corporations, is lack of demand for their products. If there were demand, firms would respond, as they always have, even when tax rates were far, far higher than they are now (as they were until 1980). It is demand that creates jobs, and it is our current system's high level of inequality that accordingly is destroying jobs.(p.6)


But Stiglitz isn't writing simply to critique or analyze our economic pulse. He is offering a holistic, concise package of tax reform proposals, that would benefit the common good, including reducing the environmental degradation our current economic system disregards. In this he addresses conservative concerns while touching on issues of deficits, balanced budgets, corporate income tax, corporate welfare, financial transaction taxes, tax havens, carbon tax, fair tax, tax loopholes, inheritance taxes, etc.

He sees these issues as tied together and thus  tax reform must be a whole package. His bottom line is simple:

        As we have repeatedly said, tax reform is not an end in itself. Nor is the object of tax reform just to raise more money to reduce the deficit. The objective of tax reform is to create a more efficient tax system, which simultaneously advances a variety of societal goals: higher employment and growth, a better distribution of income, and less environmental degradation. (p.26)

Who can't support that!! I recommend we each make sure every candidate for elective office gets, reads, and responds to Stiglitz' ideas. This is a serious discussion worth having across political lines and Stiglitz has provided a platform for that discussion.