Tax Analysts Blog

The Root of All (Fiscal) Evil

Posted on Jan 25, 2010

Want to know what's wrong with federal taxes? Just read Tom Friedman's advice to the president:

    Obama should bring together the country’s leading innovators and ask them: “What legislation, what tax incentives, do we need right now to replicate you all a million times over” — and make that his No. 1 priority. Inspiring, reviving and empowering Start-up America is his moon shot.

Here we have, in nicely distilled form, the bipartisan ethos that drives dysfunctional tax policymaking. Friedman spends most of his column making the entirely reasonable point that jobs are THE issue facing the country. And while some on the left find his flat-earth, new economy cheerleading to be tedious, I sort of like his relentless optimism.

But when Friedman finally settles down and tries to come up with a specific policy suggestion, where does he land? Tax incentives. And why shouldn't he: everyone -- left and right, technocrat and Tea Partier -- agrees that tax incentives are the solution. What's the problem? Who cares -- just toss in a few tax incentives and everything will be better. It's likely a daily multi-vitamin: we're not really sure how it helps, but it sure can't hurt so let's give it a try.

The road to (fiscal) hell is paved with such good intentions.

UPDATE: Former Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. seems to agree with Friedman's diagnosis and prescription.

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