Taxing

Politically speaking, I don’t fit neatly into a box. I’m a far-left liberal on social issues, yet I have no patience for the political correctness that seems to be convulsing college campuses at the moment. I’m a strong believer in the unrivaled power of the free market, but I support strong governmental safety nets, and regulations that prevent ugly externalities and solve for thorny coordination problems.

As a friend once quipped, I’m either a free-market socialist or a tax-and-spend libertarian.

From that vantage point, I’m not a fan of any of the tax reform proposals currently percolating through Congress or the White House. But I will say: boy do we need some kind of tax simplification.

Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty sure I’m at the higher end of math savvy, in terms of percentile within the US population. Even so, every year, as I do my taxes, I can barely make heads or tails of the forms and pages after pages of inscrutable instructions that back them up.

And, every year, I think to myself: if I can’t figure this stuff out, how in the world do the two-thirds of Americans with no college degree puzzle their way through?

And I suspect there are problems for more than just those two-thirds; I’ve watched plenty of groups of my over-educated friends trying to split the check at dinner, and it isn’t pretty.

I’m certainly not a supporter of a flat tax. And I do believe that tax policy – through targeted deductions and well-placed credits – can be an important tool in driving collective economic decision-making. But good god do we need to clean things up in the tax code, because this stuff is a total mess.

April 7, 2017