Wall Street Journal Musings

The Wall Street Journal made me think…

The June 12 issue stirred the following thoughts:

Item One:

Headline “Tax Man’s Target: The Mobile Phone”

Part of the story read: “The Internal Revenue Service proposed that employers assign 25% of an employee’s annual phone expenses as a taxable benefit. A worker…could see  $105 in additional federal income tax.”

It seems that my blog post, Youth Taxes for National Health, though I jested that youth might see iPod taxes and Twitter taxes, has a high probability of enactment. Make a joke; watch it materialize!

Item Two:

Headline: “Democrats and the Health Tax Taboo”

Within the article: “The president (during the campaign) attacked McCain for proposing a benefits tax.” Now Obama is inclined to force such a tax.

Deeper in the article we read that cost estimates for the Democrats’ health-care reform have by now hit $1.5 trillion over a decade. Program architects have “been creative in dreaming up ways to pay for it.”

  • Limit tax deductions
  • Penalize soda-pop drinking
  • Tax alcohol
  • Tax salty foods
  • Further raise the price of cigarettes
  • Tax specific companies
  • Charge for carbon
  • Cut Medicare payments
  • National sales tax

My thoughts:

What good are estimates? They are so much falderall. We know how programs mushroom. We’ve seen Medicare grow seven-fold over projections. Government is prone to overestimate revenues for new programs and under-guess costs. In order to get programs passed, officials understate costs. They let it explode later.

Those who oppose government growth find themselves arguing details about malodorous proposals, rather than the merits of the base proposal. By drawing opponents into an argument about details, the game plays on, and the proposer owns the airwaves and attention of the public. It’s like my wife calling from the auto dealer asking me if I want the burgundy Cadillac or the white one.

“ I didn’t know we were thinking about buying any car at all, and now you’re asking me which color. I don’t want either car!”

Headline:

“Washington Can’t Be ‘Hands-Off’ With GM”

The article reviews some of the public excoriation auto executives were subject to in front of Congress. Senator Bob Corker upbraided the Big Three CEOs at hearing last November, (and is “now working to save GM’s Spring Hill plant from permanent closure.”)

It makes one think of the self-denunciation expected during the Cultural Revolution. Congressional treatment was like a tribunal. Public humiliation was a Maoist tactic. When will captains of enterprise be sent for “re-education”?

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