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Size & Scale


As a moderate extremist or libertarian socialist, I'm proud of the Democratic Party. It's proving itself viable and big, even if there are only two participants left in the nominating process. I suppose primary participation is down from its recent historic highs, but I prefer the relative calm to the calamity on the other side.

Do I adore Sanders and Clinton? Not really. But I think they'd both make fine presidents. Are the Clintons shady? Yes. Their personal and political history is almost Kennedyesque. But Clinton is serious and qualified. Sanders, too.

As the playground that is the Republican Party slips further into vulgarity (was the most recent debate's attention to phallus size really all that surprising?), I imagine most Americans are just looking for some degree of decorum and seriousness.

It's a perfect time to discuss tax policy.

Early in Obama's presidency I wrote a lengthy plea for tax policy to be his first order of business. I felt like overhauling that convoluted mess might streamline all subsequent programs and policy. I ask my sons to clean up the lego pieces before staring a puzzle.

Anyway, it didn't happen. That's okay. I'm sure Obama had a pragmatic justification for tackling health care reform first.

But I sure hope the next president takes a stab at it. What I requested from Obama was an overhaul of corporate taxes that would encourage sustainability and good governance. I requested a corporate tax that would punish polluters and reward sustainable practices. Punishment might be the wrong word. Incentivize? I hate that word even more... if it even is a word.

Eventually, I arrived, as many environmentalists do, at suggesting a carbon tax... maybe something broad enough to virtually eliminate many other corporate tax burdens. Later, I learned of Bob Inglis' (and Grover Norquist's) suggestion that a carbon tax might replace the income tax. Interesting. I suppose a carbon tax is regressive, as the cost of making oil-based products would be passed to consumers. But given its worldwide emissions benefits and that the poor are subject to more initial harm from climate change, I think a carbon tax is a compelling proposal. I'm not entirely sure what happens after carbon producing industries fade away (which is the ultimate goal of a carbon tax, to hasten the switch to more sustainable power and products, yes?). Once we've eliminated a payroll income tax, I seriously doubt we'd see its return. Hmm. Maybe this is Norquist's patient ploy.

At any rate, I do think taxes deserve scrutiny.

Cruz and Rubio support a Value Added Tax (VAT) that is modeled after European & Japanese consumption taxes. I think both also want to implement a flat tax to replace the current progressive income tax. I kinda like the VAT (I think Bill Clinton proposed something similar) and flat tax always sounds great in theory. Every Republican plan would drop revenue considerably. According to the Tax Policy Center, if Cruz's plan were implemented,"federal tax revenues would decline by $8.6 trillion (3.6 percent of gross domestic product) over a decade."

Those numbers look fine to the GOP since the party is looking to defund or privatize Social Security, the EPA, National Parks, public education, etc. But that's not realistic thinking. Is it?

Meanwhile, the Democrats are looking to alter to course of wealth accumulation at the upper end of the tax brackets. Sanders plan is ambitious. It has to be to pay for universal health care. Hillary Clinton's is a bit more modest but still pretty dang progressive, using the Warren Rule to substantially increase taxes on the wealthiest 1%. It's at least about as progressive as Eisenhower, a progressive socialist by today's standards.

My favorite part might be this:

By providing incentive to hold investments just a little while longer, I think businesses would respond with initiatives that don't simply reward every quarter. Bigger ideas come from patient investors. I can think of two or three instances, working at publicly traded behemoths, where a bit more patience would've resulted in good products coming to light.

I'm no expert. But it's worth debating.

Suggested listening: Rich Kids: "Rich Kids"


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