Con­sider this mod­est pro­posal for tax re­form

Houston Chronicle - - OUTLOOK - By Evan Mintz

At a cer­tain point, you’ve got to ad­mit that the Repub­li­can Party has some mas­sive huevos. How do you write a tax plan that raises taxes on 95 per­cent of Texas home­own­ers, gives a bil­lion-dol­lar tax cut to Don­ald Trump and adds tril­lions to the national debt? Pol­icy aside, that’s just im­pres­sive.

Not ev­ery­one shares this sense of awe. Ex­pect to see pro­test­ers lin­ing up to­day around con­gres­sional of­fices as part of a national “Not One Penny” rally, de­mand­ing that elected of­fi­cials pledge not to give a sin­gle cent in tax cuts to the wealth­i­est cor­po­ra­tions or in­di­vid­u­als.

But some­thing is miss­ing from these protests: an al­ter­na­tive. What would tax re­form look like that pri­or­i­tizes the work­ing-class ahead of the ul­tra-rich? Con­sider this a mod­est pro­posal, which, like the cur­rent tax plan in Washington, should not be taken se­ri­ously: End pay­roll taxes

We put taxes on things that peo­ple want to go away, such as cig­a­rettes, al­co­hol and toll road traf­fic dur­ing rush hour. The power to tax is the power to de­stroy, as any good Amer­i­can knows from read­ing their McCul­loch v. Mary­land. So why do we tax pay­checks? If the gov­ern­ment wants to give a boost to jobs, then we should elim­i­nate the pay­roll tax and just start pay­ing for Medi­care, Med­i­caid and So­cial Se­cu­rity out of gen­eral rev­enues. Let’s tax wealth, not work. Sim­plify tax brack­ets

As some­one who rou­tinely flies South­west, fil­ing taxes feels all too much like fly­ing United. In­stead of three easy board­ing groups (A, B and C), there are five dif­fer­ent lines and they don’t even get on the plane in a reg­u­lar or­der. Does 2 go be­fore 1 but after 5? Who knows?

If you get in the wrong lane, will United have se­cu­rity beat you up and drag you off the plane? Prob­a­bly.

Taxes are even more com­pli­cated. There are seven dif­fer­ent brack­ets. Un­der my plan, we’ll cut this down to size and re­place the whole thing with just one, sin­gle easy bracket. All in­come over $200,000 will be taxed at 95 per­cent. Change the way we treat in­vest­ment in­come

The eas­i­est way to save money on your taxes is to not work. Amer­i­cans who earn money from in­vest­ments in­stead of a job get to pay lower rates. Let’s level the play­ing field be­tween the idle rich and nor­mal peo­ple by treat­ing all money the same. How­ever, as an ex­tra lev­eler, all work­ing-age Amer­i­cans who earn a ma­jor­ity of their money from in­vest­ments have to write “La­bor Makes; Wall Street Takes” at the top of their tax re­turns. Within the next three months, IRS-hired goons will then sched­ule an ap­point­ment ei­ther at home or a place of em­ploy­ment to de­liver a gov­ern­ment-spon­sored wedgie. Not only will this en­cour­age the flow of cap­i­tal into pay­checks in­stead of into Wall Street, but it will also pro­vide a much-needed boost to Amer­ica’s flag­ging goon-re­lated la­bor mar­kets. Re­peal and re­place the es­tate tax

Con­sider this a clas­sic bit of con­gres­sional horse-trad­ing. Right-wing politi­cians want to get rid of the es­tate tax, which levies a tax on any in­her­i­tance dol­lars over $5.5 mil­lion — or $11 mil­lion for a mar­ried cou­ple. This only helps the ex­or­bi­tantly wealthy en­sure that their kids, grand­kids and great-grand­kids never have to work a day in their lives. That’s why some 400 of the rich­est fam­i­lies have funded a lob­by­ing cam­paign to end the tax, which they’ve deemed the “Death Tax.” Sounds scary.

Left-wing politi­cians, on the other hand, think the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of wealth into the hands of the few will per­pet­u­ate a state of per­ma­nent aris­toc­racy that will use its power to pro­mote its own self­in­ter­est at the ex­pense of ev­ery­one else. As if that could ever hap­pen.

So here’s the com­pro­mise: We elim­i­nate the es­tate tax, like one side wants, but in­stead re­place it with a guil­lo­tine. Any­one pass­ing along more than $5.5 mil­lion will have their heirs be­headed. Not only will it pre­vent the rise of an con­cen­trated aris­toc­racy — guil­lotines be­ing their his­toric weak­ness — but it will also en­cour­age rich fam­i­lies to pour their money into char­i­ties and the econ­omy. Ev­ery­body wins. Mod­ern­ize the mort­gage-in­ter­est de­duc­tion

In the­ory, the mort­gage-in­ter­est de­duc­tion is sup­posed to help blunt the cost of own­ing a home. In re­al­ity, this de­duc­tion is mostly used by wealthy folks who don’t need any help, and is of­ten ex­ploited by peo­ple buy­ing their sec­ond, third or fourth homes.

This de­duc­tion will be capped to mort­gages less than $500,000 and only on pri­mary home­steads. How­ever, there is an ex­cep­tion for va­ca­tion homes if the owner holds rockin’ pool par­ties for the whole neigh­bor­hood. I’m talk­ing pizza, beer and some dude do­ing a can­non­ball off the roof and into the pool. The lo­cal IRS of­fice must also be in­vited. New tax cred­its for sub­scrib­ing to a news­pa­per

Just buy up a sub­scrip­tion or two. Please, my last pay­check bounced. They make us pay for cof­fee in the of­fice and I’ve been re­selling the free is­sues from the Chron­i­cle cafe­te­ria for spare cash. For the love of God, help me out here. Mintz is a mem­ber of the Hous­ton Chron­i­cle edi­to­rial board.

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