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Tag Archives: social justice

The Facts about Tax Progressivity

The Facts about Tax Progressivity

1. Do not conflate tax progressivity with fair fiscal redistribution

2. U.S. does have a pretty progressive tax system

3. But this system does not achieve redistribution well, for several reasons.

Anyway, do not conflate those two.

Revisiting My Socialist Root: How About Guaranteed Basic Income To All?

I am so easily sold on free food and beer: when the old boy club professor who seems to be a die-hard  Republican and Obama hater invited the class to the pub for beer and appetizers, I went, for the free food, and conversed with some female colleagues on lawyer fashion and stuff, hording over the food and being patronized by the old boy. It’s easy when you don’t give a flying sugar.

That’s my introductory ranting. SKIP ABOVE.

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Bob and Michi and I continued some discussion over equality and efficient tax system (tax lawyers with souls <3) over the left-over nachos. Basically this elitist professor suggested a low income(or anything rather) tax rate would be beneficial to the social welfare, as it reduces the stake people have in tax planing, thus saves the resources spent on tax compliance and planning/evasion. Making being smart on tax not worth the time, basically.

To ensure revenue, we can broaden the tax base, grant less exemptions (I forgot whether he mentioned this point but I think it makes sense because who cares about tax exemptions when you only have a 15% rate and it costs a lot to comply with the requirements for that exemption. of course, quantitative study needed), etc. Also, prof suggested that people should be left with their money to do whatever they want to, maybe he thinks this would reflect a truer market. High tax rate also induces lobbying, which wastes resources and distorts the market to a great extent (like taxation on carried interest, easily enabling the hedge fund managers to have a better rate on their wage compensation than others, as it is taxed at cap rate).

I certainly hope the tax rate goes up, because it would give me tons of work, and I will become a fat cat, and then I will lobby like a maniac to have the government exempt the exact form of my income.

Anyways. Taxation is thought to be existing for a few reasons:  generating revenue for the government (to do what? keep the machine running, and redistribute ), providing some incentive/disincentive for certain economic/social behaviors. Revenue generating is a vague concept, and where to “lay the incidence of taxation”, i.e. who to tax and how much, depends on the fair share based on usage of social resources, ability to pay, and of course ideological and lobbying consequences.

So I think it is fair to say, we 1) would like to make sure the society is functioning properly and provide a decent life for people living on the land; 2) improving the economy, with different schools fighting over how much government should get involved.

To realize these two goals, we can use 1) positive taxation, where government ask people for money, or 2) negative taxation, meaning the government gives money out to “deserving” people. (there is an interesting article on whether lazy people deserve our money, at here)

If one agrees with there should be progressivity in income taxation,one probably would agree that we ought to tax the right people at the right amount (actually flat rate and regressive income tax folks might think the same too).  The efforts to devise a tax system on these beliefs would be : taxing the rich at a reasonable amount to “subsidize” the society, and taxing the poor at a lower amount to have them pay their fair share, and redistributing the subsidies to the poor in various forms, including but not limited to: minimum wage, safety net (social security), child support, etc, which are forms of Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI). Whether we should have a welfare system is beyond the scope of this discussion.

But there is one other form of GMI, which, if you are OK with giving people some money, you should not be TOO alarmed by this idea, which is: BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE. According to Wikipedia, the idea is this

basic income guarantee (basic incomecitizen’s income) is a proposed system[1] of social security, that regularly provides each citizen with a sum of money. In contrast to income redistribution between nations themselves, the phrase basic income defines payments to individuals rather than households,[2] groups, or nations, in order to provide for individual basic human needs. Except for citizenship, a basic income is entirely unconditional. Furthermore, there is no means test; the richest as well as the poorest citizens would receive it. The U.S. Basic Income Network[3] emphasizes this absence of means testing in its precise definition, “The Basic Income Guarantee is anunconditional, government-insured guarantee that all citizens will have enough income to meet their basic needs.”

I think the current tax system does address the “basic human needs” in form of deduction, basically saying we won’t tax you for an amount of income you have to spend to live like a human being. So, rather than having people take out those expenses first (where a lot of problems arise: what if they dont have the money to spend, no income to deduct from? some people dont have the chance to take advantage of the deduction/tax system as a redistribution system first), why not convert that “reimbursement” kind of system into an “allowance” type?

Granted, we now have SS and other things in the welfare system, and I am no expert in welfare system, aside from knowing the following things: it’s broken and incoherent, it lacks the support system to guarantee its proper functioning (outreach and advocacy). One thing  the welfare system struggles is the eligibility issue, and lot of resources are wasted on this area.

Basically what happens, roughly, is that we try to give people who have no resources to take deductions based on their own income some money, and on top of that, allow deductions for basic living expenses. In a perfect world, if equilibrium is achieved, deserving poor will get appropriate amount of govt subsidies and deductions and taxation will work out well.

But we don’t live in a perfect world, do we?

How about, approach this “we respect you need as a human being” from a different angle. Not a tax rebate system, but a prebate system. Just simply because of your being a member of this decent society, we grant you….(drum roll)….

BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE , which relates to  SOCIAL MINIMUM

Originally I accept this idea kinda naturally. As Bob said, maybe it is easier for ideologically socialist countries to adopt this, because we are brought up with this kind of noble ideas. Well, it does seem to ring a bell, similar to the communism ideas. But for the sake of dog, ideology worth less back home than here. Look at tbaggers and occupiers, and even the pro-life folks, they go all out for their (stupid) beliefs.

I guess my support originates more from a vague philosophical idea. In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, on the subject of Social Minimum, it starts

‘People should not be allowed to starve in the streets.’ ‘No one should be denied access to a decent minimum of health-care.’ ‘Every citizen should be able to meet his or her basic needs.’ These statements all express a widespread view that a political community should seek to ensure that its members are all able to enjoy at least a minimally decent standard of living. They assert the importance of what is often called the social minimum. However, the exact nature of the social minimum, the considerations that support it, and, indeed, its basic justifiability, are all matters of intense philosophical controversy.

I guess I am just naturally gang-ho about social justice. I can’t stand injustice. I am such a baby.

In Wikipedia, there is a more economics-based explanation

…The connection between more and better has been broken; our needs for many products and services are already more than adequately met, and many of our as-yet-unsatisfied needs will be met not by producing more, but by producing differently, producing other things, or even producing less. This is especially true as regards our needs for air, water, space, silence, beauty, time and human contact…From the point where it takes only 1,000 hours per year or 20,000 to 30,000 hours per lifetime to create an amount of wealth equal to or greater than the amount we create at the present time in 1,600 hours per year or 40,000 to 50,000 hours in a working life, we must all be able to obtain a real income equal to or higher than our current salaries in exchange for a greatly reduced quantity of work…Neither is it true any longer that the more each individual works, the better off everyone will be. The present crisis has stimulated technological change of an unprecedented scale and speed: ‘the micro-chip revolution’. The object and indeed the effect of this revolution has been to make rapidly increasing savings in labour, in the industrial, administrative and service sectors. Increasing production is secured in these sectors by decreasing amounts of labour. As a result, the social process of production no longer needs everyone to work in it on a full-time basis. The work ethic ceases to be viable in such a situation and work-based society is thrown into crisis…
André GorzCritique of economic Reason, Gallile, 1989
It’s interesting. I am totally buying it. Granted there are barriers and hard to implement, but a nice approach nevertheless. Actually some of the objections directly linked to the Karl Smith argument I mentioned above. So a lot of it can be, theoretically, solved by scientific advancement. So where are all the scientists???
I need to follow up on this. But now, time for food. and PARTEYYYYY.
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