President Trump recently addressed a group of media and political officials in the White House Rose Garden to unveil his new plan to reform the US immigration system. Many ambitious changes will be made to a system that hasn’t seen much reform in the past few decades. The President wishes to create a Border Security Fund that will be supported by fees from trade on the US-Mexico border. With this fund, the President wishes to develop new technology that will scan “100% of everything” crossing the border. He went on to announce that over 400 miles of border wall should be finished by the end of 2020. President Trump also rolled out his plan to change the asylum and immigration systems.
President Trump has decided to raise tariffs on China from 10% to 25%, effectively declaring a trade war, and took to Twitter to justify his decision.
Former Governor of Massachusetts Bill Weld announced today he is running for president against Donald Trump, hoping to secure the Republican nomination.
Jack Shields | United States
Ben Franklin once said, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Indeed, since civilization formed, they have been a part of life. Today, taxes are everywhere: we have income, sales, and estate taxes, tariffs, and many more.
Despite most people thinking they pay enough or more than their share, many are quite happy to raise taxes on others in the name of ‘paying their fair share.’ And now, with the Democrats in control of the House Representatives, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already proposing a top rate of 70% to fund her radical agenda.
Which Form of Taxation is Best?
It is important to note that after the Trump tax cuts, the Feds collected a record amount of revenue. Moreover, the 1% who supposedly don’t pay their fair share already contribute 43% of the collected revenue. Meanwhile, the top 20% contribute 87% of the total income tax revenue. Rightfully, some conservatives and most libertarians despise the current state of high taxes. Because of this, Republican administrations and red states have slashed them when they had the opportunity. But in their noble goal, they have neglected the fairest one of them all.
When examining which taxation method is best, the valid questions of whether there should there be taxation or should the government be spending this much are irrelevant. As of right now, there is spending and there is taxation. I will give neither justification nor disapproval for either. Rather, I will present the best possible situation in the status quo by examining all possible taxes. Obviously, we may need some other forms of taxation to fund all our spending, but we should still strive towards the most moral system possible.
Property Tax: Immoral and Harmful
Perhaps the most popular alternative method for red states without an income tax, such as Texas, is the Real Property Tax, a tax on real estate. In principle, a property tax may be on any good someone owns, not necessarily just land. This is immoral in principle and detrimental in practice. One of the most important rights an individual can have is the right to property and the fruit of one’s labor.
Placing a tax unrelated to the actual acquiring of such property effectively makes it not your property. Rather, the government owns it and you may rent it as long as you can pay for it. As soon you are unable to, you must give it back up to those who really own it.
If you work your entire life to pay for something, it ought to be yours entirely. When the transaction is complete, the government should not be involved, save cases of illegal misuse and other abnormal instances. No government should allow itself to take property that you worked hard to attain.
Tariffs and the Sales Tax
Among the protectionists of the Republican party such as President Trump, tariffs have been supported. Tariffs, however, act essentially as just another tax against the American people. They make better products cost more and lose us thousands of jobs.
Economically, they are a complete disaster. Free trade, which requires no tariffs, is the best way to improve the lives of Americans. Any economic system which places protecting the worker over pleasing the consumer is doomed to fail, and tariffs are a means by which protectionists hope to achieve their flawed economic system, and they should receive support.
The sales tax is also a popular idea among conservatives and libertarians as a way to get rid of the income tax. On the surface, this is a very appealing option. No income tax. No IRS. Seems quite nice. However, the problem is this is regressive and unfairly impacts the poor.
Take two individuals that live in a city with a 5% sales tax. Person A makes $20,000 a year and Person B makes $100,000. Person A has to spend all of their $20,000, essentially giving them an income tax of 5%. But Person B spends $80,000 of their $100,000, saving the rest. This effectively gives them a rate of 4%, as they pay nothing on what they saved. We should strive for the fairest rate and the regressive sales tax is not the best choice.
Taxes that Unfairly Harm the Rich
Just as we shouldn’t have a system that unfairly harms the poor, we should not have a system that harms the rich. But unfortunately, this idea is quite popular in two very immoral ways. The first of these is the estate tax, perhaps the most immoral one out there. The idea that when someone dies, the government gets to go in and take some of their stuff, is truly horrifying. It is one thing to tax someone as they earn income or are in the middle of a transaction. The idea, though, that a death initiates a need to take from the family is just wrong.
One of the biggest incentives for earning is to care for your family. One of the marks of a truly successful life, at least from an economic perspective, is having your family be financially prosperous because of you, even when you are long gone. The fact that this only targets the richest of the rich is irrelevant when looking at it from a moral perspective. When someone dies, there is no moral reason to go in and take their stuff.
The Progressive Income Tax
The next favorite policy against the rich is the progressive income tax. The idea, of course, is that as you make more money, you can afford to lose more of your income. There are already a plethora of economic reasons why this is a terrible idea, and Thomas Sowell writes particularly well on the issue. The economic side has already seen lengthy discussion.
However, just as with the estate tax, the immorality of the system has seen little public examination. If an individual obeys the law and earns a sizable income, what right do you have to use the government to steal the money and use it for your own ideas? The idea that these rich people are evil and have no idea how to help people with their money is just wrong. Practically, do you really think Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi are smarter with money than Bill Gates, who is using his billions to cure AIDS, or LeBron James, who is using his millions to send underprivileged kids to college? Of course not.
Morally, if your neighbor disapproved of the way you spent your money so he took 70% of it and spent it how he wished, we’d call it stealing (rightfully so). When the government does it, it is still stealing and still wrong. The point of taxation is to give the government a stream of revenue to properly execute its powers. If at any point taxation deviates from this goal in the name of any other, it is immoral. Surely, this is the poster child for this immoral practice.
Its Cousin: Sin Taxes
Special taxes against things which present a supposed moral problem such as alcohol or marijuana (sin tax) are essentially the cousin of the progressive income tax and are just as immoral. Taxing something, whether it be a whiskey tax or carbon tax, is just another way to legislate morality. Just like the progressive tax, this deviates from the goal of bringing in revenue.
The Flat Tax: The Most Moral System
With prevalent practical and moral issues with all the taxation methods listed above, the flat income tax stands alone as the most moral tax system. Of course, it is not perfect; any type of taxation is a necessary evil, after all. By definition, necessary evil is still evil. Nevertheless, it solves the moral and practical issues of the other systems.
Unlike the property tax, this only occurs right as you acquire money, and then you’re done. You don’t have to keep paying it every year. Unlike tariffs, it in no way interferes with free trade. Unlike the sales and progressive income taxes, it does not disproportionately affect the rich or poor. It is an equal percentage across the board, making it fair by mathematical law. Unlike the estate tax, it will not immorally take money from a family dealing with the loss of a loved one. And unlike the progressive income or sin taxes, the flat tax does not legislate morality.
If you raise the rate on one group, you have to raise it on all, making rate increases much more difficult and unpopular. This will help to ensure that taxation only funds the government’s enumerated powers. Thus, it will be moral (assuming, of course, that the enumerated powers are moral).
Because it is both moral and practically capable of raising a reasonable amount of revenue; the flat tax is clearly the system conservatives and libertarians should advocate for in their quest to end limitless taxation and government spending.
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Nickolas Roberson | United States
A newly published report by the Tax Foundation on the 5th of December has found that the Trump administration’s recently imposed tariffs on aluminum, steel, solar panels, and a plethora of other industrial goods from China will increase taxation on Americans by $42 billion.
A tariff, as defined by the said report, is “a type of excise tax that is levied on goods produced abroad at the time of import.” Their intent is to “increase consumption of goods manufactured at home by increasing the price of foreign-produced goods.” This pricing of foreign goods is artificially increased, as the government is taxing its citizens for purchasing and consuming products. Things affected are foods, such as bananas or rice, personal goods, such as televisions or furniture, or commercial goods that could be tractors, cars, airplanes, etc. Why? The governments of our world state that their intentions are to protect their domestic industries from the competition and “vices” of foreign businesses and companies. In reality, tariffs are further methods for big brother to increase his control over us, regulating our methods of voluntary exchange, what goods we trade, and by taking away our money in the form of extended taxation.
Regarding the Trump administration’s tariffs specifically, there will be a 25 percent tariff on imported steel ($7.3 billion tax increase), a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum ($1.7 billion tax increase), 25 percent tariff on imported goods from China that have a total value of $50 billion ($12.5 billion tax increase), and a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of other imports from China ($20 billion tax increase). Thus, as reported by the Tax Foundation, the overall tax increase will be near $42 billion on American citizens. Additionally, the administration threatened to implement another $129 billion worth of tariffs on more Chinese products and merchandise.
When analyzing the economic impacts of the President’s current protectionist tariffs, the Tax Foundation found that they would “reduce long-run GDP by 0.12 percent ($30.4 billion) and wages by 0.08 percent and eliminate 94,300 full-time equivalent jobs.” If the proposed tariffs are implemented as well, “long-run GDP would fall by 0.38 percent ($94.4 billion) and wages by 0.24 percent, and 292,600 full-time equivalent jobs would be eliminated.” It should be reiterated that tariffs are artificially increased prices of imported products and services by the government to discourage consumers from purchasing them. It is truly a form of taxation. No Chinese business or manufacturer is paying this tax, as the Trump administration continues to attempt to debate and establish.
Now, what are the origins of tariffs? For centuries, European nations practiced a trading system dubbed mercantilism, which attempted to prevent goods and services from leaving a home country, preventing trade value from leaving the said country. Incredibly high tariffs and other trade barriers were put into place, leading to high costs for manufactured goods and multiple trade wars throughout the world. However, in 1776, an economist named Adam Smith published his work titled Wealth of Nations.
This magnum opus regarding economics questioned the systems of mercantilism and proposed the idea of free trade: an economic theory that promoted competition between businesses and individuals across a global scale, voluntary trade without regulations such as tariffs, and no discrimination against imports or exports. As this new idea spread across the globe, nations and its citizens experienced a rapid flow of commerce, development of economies, and increases in productivity and innovation. The practice of the aforementioned theory was so successful. Organizations such as the World Trade Organization, NAFTA, and the European Union were developed to continue to promote its benefits to the human race.
Unfortunately, President Donald Trump and his administration seem to be ignoring this history of free trade and its plethora of benefits. With their tariffs, both current and proposed, competition will be stifled in the economy of the United States, resulting in higher prices for goods and services; jobs will be lost, GDP will fall, and the overall economy could possibly become a bear market. The next question that must be asked: will these tariffs counteract the benefits of Trump’s deregulation plan, with it increasing the economic freedom and reducing the regulatory costs of the nation? Furthermore, when will this expansion of government end? When will big brother stop raping and pillaging people for their capital and assets to pay off its own enormous debt? Only time will be able to answer this question, but one thing is obvious to the naked eye: the future of the United States of America is a foggy and obscure one.
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