Taxes and Congress

The 113th Congress, in its last days, has passed and sent to President Barack Obama for signature (or veto) a bill extending expired tax breaks through the end of this year. It’s retroactive because the expiration occurred at the end of last year. And the extension is good only for a couple more weeks. The breaks are an amalgam of exemptions that

benefit big corporations and small businesses, as well as struggling homeowners and people who live in states without a state income tax.

A couple things about this. First, notice that phrase “tax breaks.” These represent special carve outs for selected businesses and selected individual Americans, and they’re a mix of crony capitalism and social engineering.

The other thing is the end-of-year decision making regarding the tax code. This isn’t unique to this Congress; Congresses have been pulling this stunt for decades.

If we had real tax reform, say a tax code that eschewed social engineering, that had a single, low, flat rate without loopholes, carve outs, subsidies, credits, and so on, and that everyone with an income paid, there’d be no need—no opportunity—for this late year, late night, wrangling. And there’d be no need for tax breaks, loopholes, carve outs, subsidies, credits, and so on.

This also would both reduce the breadth of influence of special interests and reduce the availability of our tax code—and our tax money—for government-determined social engineering.

This is a thing the 114th Congress should take up with some urgency—”on day one.” It’s highly likely that Obama would veto real tax reform, but that in itself would be not so bad. At worst, that would help shape the 2016 elections and clarify differences between those who understand and respect the wisdom of American citizens and those who think government must be involved in our lives for our own good.

This is a test of both camps.

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