Principles and the Buffett Tax

by Douglas Holtz-Eakin

I thought the Buffett tax was a bad idea, but then I listened to the president and realized the error of my ways. It’s a basic principle of tax fairness. But that got me wondering, what other principles need attention? Four jumped to mind, and they certainly seem to outrank the Buffet tax.

1. If you want to work you should be able to find a job. We should create jobs; putting the unemployed back to work, lifting the hopes of discouraged workers, and generating the incomes that are the foundation of real economic security.

2) Take care of the poor and elderly. It’s not right to have a social safety net that serves beneficiaries poorly (Medicaid), balances its books by planning to slash retirees’ benefits (Social Security), crumbles under its own financial weight (Medicare), or violates the Constitution (Obamacare). We should fix those spending programs.

3) If you take it, pay for it.It’s not fair to leave debts behind to the next generation; especially debts larger than the economy, likely to explode further and predictably causing an economic crisis. We should fix the budget.

4) The same prices for everyone — no unfair special deals.It’s not right that some get special subsidies in the tax code, benefit from loopholes, or face tax rates too high because of the largesse bequeathed to others. We should fix those problems with fundamental, pro-growth tax reforms that also aid international competitiveness.

Let’s see. Principle 1 should be everyone’s top priority. Principle 2 would keep spending under control, making it possible to pursue Principle 3 without taxing Principle 1 into oblivion. And Principle 4 would provide support for Principle 1 besides being important in its own right.

But more important, if we did those four, we wouldn’t need the Buffett tax. Seems like its not really the principal principle after all.

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