Tax Complexity Marches On

The gist of this post is so obvious, it’s hardly worth writing.  But I sometimes find myself unable to remember specific examples of April income tax silliness when I’m discussing the need for fundamental tax reform at election time.  So here are some of my favorites from this year’s Maryland return. Read the rest of this entry »

Where Are We Going? And What Are We Doing in this Handbasket?

On the theory that a picture is worth a thousand words, I thought perhaps I could use my latest bumper sticker purchases to substitute for commentary I haven’t been writing. Here’s a pretty good summary:


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The Case for Fundamental Tax Reform (Reposted)

The following was originally posted on April 15, 2008:

It’s April 15, and like many Americans I just finished spending much too long trying to figure out what I owe in federal and state income taxes. What better day could there be to consider the need for fundamental tax reform? Read the rest of this entry »

If Paul Krugman Hates It, How Bad Can It Be?

I probably don’t know enough to have an intelligent opinion about this, either, but I think the administration’s new version of cash for trash shows improvement.  I would prefer to see more funding from the private sector; indeed, I would prefer 100% private funding.  But if by hypothesis the government has to take the leading role, perhaps the small amount that will be required from private bidders under this program will work like economic pixie dust and make it all fly.

Paul Krugman hates it, and so does Joe Stiglitz.  And by  a freakish coincidence, I learned of their disapproval just after reading a section of Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money that mentions them both. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Quick Thoughts on the New and Improved, This-Time-We-Really-Mean-It Stimulus Bill

It’s a big day for bailouts, and there’s too much happening for us to look at any of it in depth.  But here are five quick thoughts. Read the rest of this entry »

Closing the Money Hole

The bailout debate almost defies parody.  Almost.

Five Things About the Economy on Which We Should All Be Able to Agree

So, another day, another plunge in stock prices, another wave of aspiring moochers descending on Washington, and another God-knows-how-many billions set to be doled out under the Treasury’s “TARP” program.  (“TARP” is an acronym, of course, which stands for “Totally Arbitrary Rewards and Penalties.”  The goal of the program is to render unreliable the economic signals that have guided business activity for centuries, like interest rates, or profits or the lack thereof.  By replacing these traditional signals with totally arbitrary rewards and penalties, policy makers can simultaneously pretend to “rescue” one group after another while vastly expanding their power over the livelihoods of private citizens.)

Treasury Secretary Paulson, who in September told us that buying troubled assets from investment banks was the only way to avoid a total financial meltdown, now says that buying troubled assets was not the only way; in fact it wasn’t really a very good way after all so it’s time to try something different.  Read the rest of this entry »

The VP Debate, the Expectations Game, and Eight Questions for the Candidates

Everyone is playing the expectations game in advance of tomorrow night’s Biden-Palin debate.  Most of it is just self-serving blather, but Jed Lewison’s piece on the Huffington Post stood out to me as an exception because Lewison included video of Palin’s prior debates.  Anyone who is expecting a complete face-plant by Gov. Palin may be disappointed.  See for yourself.

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House Republicans Drop the Ball

I understand the case for the bailout, I really do.  Tim Peach and Dave Fitzgerald have done a very good job explaining it here, and John Mauldin explains it in much greater detail (and argues that it’s not really a bailout at all because the taxpayers will profit) here.  (Note:  The Mauldin piece is free, but you need to give him an e-mail address before it shows up on your screen.)  Because of all the bad things that would happen to the economy as a whole in the absence of the bailout, it’s no surprise that a deal has been reached.  Apparently there is no official text yet, but the Washington Post has a pretty concise rundown of the major points, and the stories in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal seem to be in accord.  What caught my eye, though, was what the House Republicans managed to get in return for ending their holdout.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Quarterly Estimated Tax Rip-Off (or: Two Weeks I Hate Twice a Year)

Today is September 15, which means I’m required by law to mail my quarterly estimated tax payments to my state and federal governments.  So I did.  I don’t like paying my taxes any more than the next guy, but I’m no scofflaw.  And I’m not going to use this as a jumping-off point for complaining about our lousy fiscal policy, or reciting my previous arguments about the need for fundamental tax reform.

There is something that bothers me about the June 15 and September 15 payments, though:  It bothers me that I’m required to pay taxes on money I haven’t earned yet.  Read the rest of this entry »