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Posts Tagged ‘income’
October 30th, 2018 at 12:00 pm
Image of the Day: Under Trump, the Poor Get… Richer
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From the U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee, a stark illustration of the sharp increase in wage and salary growth for full-time employees in the bottom 10% of earners:

The Poor Get Richer

The Poor Get Richer

 

 

July 28th, 2017 at 12:48 pm
Image of the Day: Almost All European Nations Would Be Poor U.S. States
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From the Mises Institute, a helpful corrective to the strangely persistent myth that life is better in Europe than the United States.  As this graph demonstrates, if European nations were U.S. states, almost all of them would be poor ones.  That also includes Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Most European Nations Would Be Poor U.S. States

Most European Nations Would Be Poor U.S. States

Only three nations – Switzerland (which notably has no minimum wage), Luxembourg and Norway – exceed the U.S. median income, and keep in mind that doesn’t account for the far lower cost of living (i.e., purchasing power) in the U.S.  Something to keep handy the next time Bernie Sanders speaks of overseas utopias, or friends on social media instruct us all on some better way of living, as Merle Haggard would say.

April 24th, 2014 at 6:05 pm
ObamaCare and Income Inequality

If President Barack Obama wants to improve income inequality he could start by removing ObamaCare’s barriers to working more hours.

“The savings from restricting hours worked can be enormous,” explains the Wall Street Journal. “If a company with 50 employees hires a new worker for $12 an hour for 29 hours a week, there is no health insurance requirement. But suppose that worker moves to 30 hours a week. This triggers the $2,000 federal penalty. So to get 50 more hours of work a year from that employee, the extra cost to the employer rises to about $52 an hour – the $12 salary and the ObamaCare tax of what works out to be $40 an hour.”

Liberals thought themselves clever by dropping full-time status to 30 hours per week from the traditional 40. What they didn’t count on was that the actual result would be an 11 hour per week pay cut.

April 9th, 2013 at 2:35 pm
Jindal “Parks” Controversial Income-for-Sales Tax Swap

With opposition from Louisiana’s business and religious communities, as well as resistance from Republican state lawmakers, Governor Bobby Jindal announced he will “park” his plan to replace the state’s income tax with a higher sales tax.

The devil was in the details, says Josh Barro, a Bloomberg economics and financial writer.

The other problem was that Jindal’s method of tax-base expansion was not very sensible. An ideal sales tax should apply to all consumption exactly once, meaning it should include business-to-consumer transactions and exclude business-to-business transactions. Taxing transactions between businesses leads to “tax pyramiding”: a sale is taxed multiple times before reaching the final consumer, meaning the tax embedded in the price far exceeds the actual tax rate. This is unfair and also inefficient, because it punishes businesses that choose not to vertically integrate: If I run a restaurant, my customers pay more tax if I buy my pastries from a third-party baker than if I bake them myself. (Depending on how my state taxes pastries.)

Jindal’s administration was bragging that his plan would cause lots of tax pyramiding. An official in Jindal’s department of revenue told the Louisiana House Ways and Means Committee that 80 percent of the new sales tax on services would be borne by businesses. This announcement was meant to be an explanation of how the plan could cut taxes on individuals in all income brackets. But it caused yet two more problems. One, it led the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, normally friendly to Jindal, to come out against the plan. Two, it undermined the case for reform: Sales-tax base broadening is supposed to make the tax base more ideal, but Jindal was effectively announcing that it would not.

For conservatives, it is part of Economics 101 to remind liberals that all taxes paid by businesses get passed on to consumers.  With a statewide popularity rating now lower than President Barack Obama’s, it’s too bad the very bright Governor Jindal had to (re)learn that lesson the hard way.

March 30th, 2013 at 6:33 pm
Jindal Raises Sales Tax Estimate Amid Growing Opposition

A new, higher-than-originally-estimated sales tax will be needed to recoup revenue lost if Louisiana legislators adopt Governor Bobby Jindal’s proposal to swap the state’s income taxes on individuals and businesses for an expanded sales tax.

The revision, released by Jindal’s office last Thursday, raised the proposed sales tax rate from 5.88 percent to 6.25 percent, according to reporting by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans.

The timing of the announcement could hardly have been worse.  So far, no business group has mobilized in support of the proposal.  Instead, some of the state’s most influential business associations are opposing the measure because it shifts $500 million in taxable events onto business transactions that are currently exempt.

On the other side of the spectrum, a group of three hundred religious leaders signed a letter to Jindal arguing that the tax swap would amount to a tax increase on the poor.

Even fiscally conservative Republicans are wary because of the administration’s inability to peg a consistent revenue amount if the state moves from income to sales to fund the government.  That skepticism will now grow with Jindal’s higher tax rate, since it looks to some like a tacit admission that previous estimates were overly optimistic.

So far, Jindal appears to be making one of his few missteps in an otherwise very successful run as Louisiana’s governor.

March 26th, 2013 at 6:33 pm
Update on Jindal’s Sales-for-Income Tax Swap

Two state-based think tanks, Louisiana’s Pelican Institute and Massachusetts’ Beacon Hill Institute, released a study (pdf) highlighting the likely benefits of Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal’s proposal to scrap the state’s income tax and raise its sales tax.

In a nutshell, the study estimates that Jindal’s plan would increase disposable income by $1.749 billion by 2017. That’s an extra $910 for each Louisiana family.

The question left unaddressed by the study is the one most likely to be asked by critics – What will be the impact on low income citizens whose cost of living (along with everyone else’s) will go up with a greatly expanded sales tax base?

Whereas progressive income taxes take a larger bite out of the paychecks of wealthy citizens, sales taxes take a larger bite from those of the poorer classes.

One way to avoid the charge that a sales-for-income tax swap would amount to a disproportionate tax increase on the poor is to exempt certain items like food and other necessaries from the tax. So far, Jindal’s plan does this.

That, of course, can lead to the same kind of pockmarked tax code that currently infects most states, as well as the IRS.

To my mind, it makes the most sense to argue for a flat tax on income with very few exemptions or deductions. It’s fair, easy to understand, and is the concept most resistant to special interest tampering.

Moreover, when it comes to the national debate over tax reform, it has one huge advantage over a beefed up sales tax: It can be easily replicated at the federal level.

Unless Jindal has become a fan of a national sales tax replacing the national income tax, then maybe his push to swap Louisiana’s income tax for a bigger sales tax is the clearest sign yet he’s not running for President of the United States in 2016.

H/T: The Pelican Post

March 14th, 2013 at 6:02 pm
Jindal’s Louisiana Tax Reform a (Possible) Model for Other States, Feds

A few weeks ago I wrote on the income-for-sale-tax swap some conservative governors are pursuing as an alternative to Washington’s income tax rate debate.

Today, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, a big proponent of the sales-for-income-tax swap, announced his plan in Baton Rouge.

A press release from Jindal’s office lists the estimated benefits:

The plan will ensure revenue neutrality by:

  • Eliminating~$2.7 Billion in personal income tax and corporate income and franchise tax
  • Eliminating over 200 exemptions, resulting in $114 Million in additional revenue
  • Broadening the state sales tax base and raising the state rate to 5.88%, which will result in ~$2.1 billion in revenue
  • Maintaining vital local tax offsets and business competitiveness incentives
  • Implementing targeted tax offsets, including a change in the cigarette tax rate, and tightening severance tax exemptions

But there are also some possible drawbacks. As I mentioned in my column, moving to a heavier reliance on the sales tax often requires lawmakers to carve out lots of exemptions. The danger is that, over time, a sales tax code could become as special interest driven as the current income tax code with all its byzantine deductions and exemptions.

Without agreeing to the substance of this critique, Jindal’s press release gives a clue as to what might be in store if his plan passes:

To keep the sales tax rate as low as possible, the plan will expand the sales tax base to many services that are already taxed in other states in addition to eliminating over 200 current exemptions. Many of these exemptions are no longer relevant since they were related to the personal income tax and/or corporate income and franchise tax.

Reducing the number of tax exemptions has many benefits, including limiting the state sales tax rate increase required to generate sufficient revenue and greater stability in revenues. The sales tax exemptions retained under the plan will help protect low-income residents and also preserve Louisiana’s business competitiveness. These include:

  • Constitutionally protected sales tax exemptions, including food for home consumption, residential utilities, prescription drugs and fuel.
  • Manufacturing, machinery, and equipment (MM&E), non-residential utilities, farm and agriculture, drilling rigs, vessels greater than 50 tons, tangible personal property for lease or rental, manufacturers’ rebates and trade-in value on new vehicle purchases, and preservation/rehabilitation of historic structures.
  • Exemptions for vendors compensations
  • Exemptions for certain non-profit organizations (religious, military, disabled)
  • Sales tax exemptions on purchases whose cost is already borne by the taxpayer: those made by federal, state and local governments.

Reasonable people can debate the merits of which kind of tax reform is best to make the code simpler and fairer. Personally, I prefer a flat tax on income with few if any exemptions because it leaves the least amount of room for special interest mischief.

That said, Jindal’s plan deserves a hearing. If it passes and works in practice, expect to see Jindal’s tax reform model – if not Jindal himself – on the 2016 presidential campaign trail.

February 14th, 2013 at 2:08 pm
Peter Orszag: Less Wealth Means More Equality

Get a load of this economic reasoning from Peter Orszag, Obama’s first Director of the Office of Management and Budget and current vice chairman at megabank Citigroup:

More graduates would mean lower inequality, because the wage premium for a college degree would be reduced by the additional supply. And it would mean higher national income, because better-educated workers are, on average, more productive.

So, lowering the “wage premium” means that income for college graduates will go down with more of them in the job market.  This is a good thing according to Orszag because reducing the value of a college degree will have a leveling effect on incomes (in a downward direction, of course).

On the bright side, it’s a remarkably honest admission about everything that’s wrong with the analysis of people who obsess over economic inequality.  In this worldview, government policies that devalue education and distort the labor market should be praised if it means less people have an opportunity to be rewarded for superior ability.

Thus, while Orszag’s analysis doesn’t square with the diminished aspirations of millions of under- and unemployed college graduates in the Age of Obama, it does help explain why his former boss isn’t putting any muscle behind addressing the depressed job market.  In Obama World, so long as more people make the same – even if it’s less – everything is just fine.

February 1st, 2013 at 1:00 pm
Could a Higher Sales Tax Lead to Less Expensive Government?

A Governing.com blog post by finance writer Liz Farmer includes a little history lesson for conservative governors looking to swap income tax cuts for higher sales taxes.  In order to avoid a massive drop-off in tax revenue in such a scenario, states would be obliged to not only increase their sales tax rate, but expand it beyond goods to include services as well.

But an example from Florida’s recent past gives reason to pause:

Expanding the sales base to include services would address both of those issues. However, getting that idea past the powerful lobbies that advocate for the affected industries is another question. In 1987, the Florida Legislature enacted an expanded sales tax on services like including advertising, legal, accounting and construction services. The move was met with enormous outcry. Major corporations like Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble canceled or reduced their advertising in the state to protest the tax while business groups canceled at least 60 conventions they had booked in the state. The tax lasted just six months until it was repealed and the legislature instead voted to raise the sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent, a rate that is still in effect today.

It’s worth noting that a tax expert quoted in the blog confirms that income taxes are the most destructive tax because they create a disincentive to build wealth.  However, as the experience in Florida shows, a workable sales tax runs the risk of becoming quickly unpopular once consumers start seeing the true cost of government on every commercial transaction.

Assuming some states do enact the income-for-sales-tax swap, maybe the sticker shock will prompt another round of reform; one that perhaps lets third-party vendors compete for government contracts to deliver services at a fraction of what it costs to fund a bureaucracy.