Cleaning Up The System: It’s All So Simple!

Andrew Sullivan has figured out the solution to all that ails us: "If we could end all loop-holes (and I mean all), and have three or so effective rates, can you imagine how cleaner our politics would be? And how much more efficient our economy?"

Andrew Sullivan has figured out the solution to all that ails us:   “If we could end all loop-holes (and I mean all), and have three or so effective rates, can you imagine how cleaner our politics would be? And how much more efficient our economy?”

Now, I happen to think that this is a good idea.  But let’s not kid ourselves.  Even if this were politically feasible — and it ain’t, not by a long shot — all it would do is reset the game to a new starting point.  The same people who are now spending millions lobbying to get their pet program privileged in the tax code would still be there trying to tinker.  It’s not like we started with a lot of loopholes in 1913.

FILED UNDER: Politics 101, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    Couldn’t agree more Jim. Funnily enough I was making the same point to you a few day ago when you were claiming that HCR was a one shoe fits all program. That’s the last thing it is at over 2000 pages to START with. Even when relatively simple bits of legislation get passed (which is seldom) it isn’t long before special interests start to carve out exceptions. I’m all for simplifying the tax code but every clause would be a battlefield. Sullivan is just flying a kite.

  2. john personna says:

    The sick thing is that you fault Friedman for his center-first radicalism, before lamenting that in this broken two party train wreck such simple fixes are impossible.

    I’m confused. Are you a political Eeyore at this point, sure nothing will work, and opposing all change … or are more an agent of the broken system?

  3. James Joyner says:

    The sick thing is that you fault Friedman for his center-first radicalism, before lamenting that in this broken two party train wreck such simple fixes are impossible.

    I’m a political scientist who views the system for what it is, not a dreamer living in a world of fantasy. It’s possible to make a lot of things better. Indeed, things are mostly getting better all the time. But you can’t take the politics out of politics.

    Even aside from systemic issues, there are nearly 310 million of us spread across a giant, continental land mass. We’re incredibly diverse culturally. There just isn’t some permanent, slam dunk consensus that we can achieve if only our leaders would lead.

  4. john personna says:

    ” Indeed, things are mostly getting better all the time.”

    Not by quite a few measurable criteria.

    Overall it sounds like you are half agent and half Eeyore. You probably know how much (on a massive scale) is not working, but you aren’t ready to dream of something better.

  5. john personna says:

    I don’t know if you actually read the 15 Shocking Poverty Statistics, but you should.

    When “One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program” something is seriously broken.

    Either we are aiding too many who don’t need it, or broken the American money machine.

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    I think we’re actually due for a major overhaul of the tax system. We’ve had one about every 20 to 25 years. There was a bit of tinkering around the edges during the Clinton and Bush II administrations but not a major overhaul.

    The 1986 reform was definitely a major overhaul, much along the lines that Mr. Sullivan is suggesting: simplification, closing loopholes, reducing the number of rates.

    Prior to that the Tax Reform Act of 1969 saw a major reduction in rates and created the AMT, essentially following up on the Revenue Act of 1964. I think that, at least together, they constitute a major overhaul, cutting the top rates nearly in half.

    I think the Current Tax Payment Act of 1943 has to be considered a major revolution in the income tax in the U. S. It re-introduced income tax withholding for the first time since the American Civil War and, as we have seen, permanently. It made the income tax effective for the first time and, along with the many, many other tax reforms of the 1940s extended to the income tax to practically all income earners.

    By my reckoning that constitutes a major overhaul about every 20 years.

    What’s changed? Has reforming the code suddenly become impossible?

  7. John Personna says:

    I think it goes deeper than tax. I don’t know, maybe I’m simple getting hung up on that 1/6th.

    I just can’t see how it can work with 1/6th on assistance. Maybe we need to rethink what we are trying to achieve.

  8. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Poverty in the U.S. is a number. I other nations it is a fact of life. Go to a 3rd world nation. You will get to see poverty. $20 K a year, damn. You can buy a new car. I followed John’s link. Read the 15 shocking things. Many of those listed were caused by government. If government had not told the bank system they must lend money to people who could not repay it, a good portiion of those now drawing unemployment would still be working; When government removes money from the private sector employment shrinks. When a person who has fully functional frontal lobes looks at the big picture and what this government, under this leader has done, it almost looks like some of this calamity was done on purpose, aka Cloward Piven. But then it also looks like our current leaders in government are following, very closely, Alinsky’s rules for radicals.

  9. John Personna says:

    Do you expect gov subsidy for that “poor life with car?”

    Because that IS how we end up with the 1/6th on assistance. We don’t want 1/6th on public transportation, so ewe try to subsidize them to middle class.

  10. buermann says:

    But the first few decades afterward would be a vast, vast improvement, rendering incalculable benefits to future generations so they can afford to create their own irrational, ponderous, inefficient mess of a tax code.