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Sensible Tax Reform by Economists for Peace and Security

Posted in New Deal 2.0 Statement by James K. Galbraith, Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations and Professor of Government, The University of Texas at Austin, and Senior Scholar, Levy Economics Institute, before the Senate Finance Committee, March 8, 2011, hearing on Principles of Efficient Tax Reform.

This is a potential classic of clear and elegant writing by economists James Galbraith and other members of the Economists for Peace and Security.  It opens with the statement that

“Let me begin by noting that the realized budget deficit is an economic outcome, not a policy choice. So long as the economy faces high unemployment, there is no fiscal formula — no combination of tax increases and spending cuts — that can make it go away.”

Wow!  Bet that woke them up.  The whole piece is wonderful, the height of reason and mature reflection.  But best of all is the bit I copy hear about the need for taxes on land and other ‘economic rents’.

Economists from Smith to Ricardo to Mill understood that fixed investments, however useful, do not generate many permanent jobs. What creates jobs is the revolving capital that supports payrolls. A tax policy aimed at supporting employment would shift the tax burden away from labor, and off of short-term capital, and place it instead on long-term capital accumulations. If this reduces the investment in fixed capital that is desired for other reasons — in particular, investment with broad public benefits — then that sort of investment should be done by public authority, funded by an infrastructure bank.

Thus as a general rule fixed assets — notably land — should be taxed more heavily than income. The tax on property is a good tax, provided it is designed to fall as heavily as possible on economic rents. This basic argument, going back to Ricardo, remains sensible, for it aims to not-interfere where there is, in fact, no public purpose to interfere with private decision-taking. Payroll taxes and profits taxes do interfere directly with current business decisions. Taxes effectively aimed at economic rent, including land rent and mineral rents, and at “absentee landlords” as Veblen called them, do not.
An important question is how best to treat the “quasi-rents” due to new technology and thus the incentives for innovation. These are presently held as long-term capital gains and they tend to escape tax to a very large degree, with the consequence that a small number of successful innovators (and patent holders) have become an oligarchy of never-before-equaled wealth.  (link to full article)

Posted in Land Taxation, Money Systems, News, Resilient Investment.

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