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Beyond Good and Evil

Death, taxes and the Kardashians are three inescapable realities of this mortal coil. To deal with the first (Death) we turn to God. To deal with the second (taxes) we turn to politics. To deal with the third (Kardashians) we turn to the KOTCB blog. When it comes to taxes a little history is in order and in my view For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization by Charles Adams is required reading. Too lazy to read the book then here's the short form published in the NYTimes in 1992 (23 years ago!!!) which says in part:
If taxation sustains civilized society, it also represents a potential danger to civilization, Mr. Adams believes. "When we tax," Mr. Adams says, "we are dealing with fire, and without proper controls and care, we can easily burn down everything we have built."
Income creates jobs, he argues. When the state takes away income from an enterprising man or woman, it takes away his or her capacity to generate employment and wealth for society.
The lessons he derives from history are more than economic. The ancient Greeks, who developed the concept of liberty, discovered that excessive taxation bred despots.
Unfortunately, Mr. Adams says, when the need for revenues collides with ideals of freedom, ideals give way. During the reigns of certain pharaohs and late Roman emperors, tax collectors became virtual slave masters. He's worried the situation may recur in the United States today.
"I believe we've lost something when we tolerate the degree of public intrusion that we do," he says. "Our tax system is now a spy system." The problem, he argues, is that American taxes have lost their sense of fairness. "When you feel the system is a rip-off on you and a loophole for somebody else, then it loses its moral persuasion, and the Government has to fall back on heavy criminal penalties."
Revenue-Neutral
Did Presidents Clampett, W or 0 correct what was an evident problem by the end of the GHWB Presidency? No. If anything the situation has grown worse and the dreamy solutions proposed by "reformers" from both Left and Right have done nothing to alleviate the general feeling among Americans that "the system is a rip-off." The IRS just keeps taking money from We the People and buying God knows what in an effort to keep dollars circulating in the economy - a necessary extortion to be sure, but one with well hidden benefits. Though watchdogs bark the hounds are safely fenced in the back yard while the burglar picks the lock on the front door, jimmies windows, tunnels into the cellar and, dressed as Santa, shimmies down the chimney to take what's his. Oh, you thought it was yours? You heartless, selfish, unpatriotic fool - get with the program.

Enter Donald Trump who has released a tax plan and explains its purpose in yesterdays WSJ. Say what you will about the pros and cons, but this is a tax reform that could actually pass the Congress and get signed into law. It's not one of those meaningless wish list tax plans that's "so obvious" that everyone but the most evil Republicans/Democrats (take your pick) should support it. It's real and it's substantive and it's achievable. As with any tax plan critics pipe up from far and wide - maybe more so because it's Trump's plan - addressing them all is a heartless, selfish, unpatriotic fool's errand, but one criticism must be smoked on the KOTCB blog - it's the one that claims that Trumps plan is just a gold plated version of the JEB! tax plan. That might be true (though since it appeared in Slate it probably isn't) but one things for sure, Trump would have a better answer than JEB! when asked about tax "fairness".


"That's just the way it is" is NOT the answer Americans are looking for no matter what the question is - especially not a question about taxes. You just know that Trump would have swatted this one into the bleachers, leisurely jogged around all three bases and doffed his cap (Make America Great Again) when touching home plate. Now that The Donald has called off his Fox News boycott perhaps he'll teach Chris Wallace how the game is played.

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