Netreker0 wrote:Respectfully, this isn't totalitarianism
Correct. However it's the kind of absolutist thinking that complements and leads to totalitarianism, or at least authoritarianism.
I don't mean to be snarky, but why did you quote me, leave out the very next part where I explicitly state that totalitarianism and that crazy 100% socialist tax system would complement one another, and then say basically what I said in that parenthetical as if it were some new thought you were adding?
Again, sincerely not meaning to be snarky. I'm curious whether that was a deliberate decision, or if I did a poor job making that part of my post understood. Was I being too subtle?
You make a good point about social goals being (inappropriately) built into the tax code, but I'm not quite sure it's inappropriate. After all, if a social goal is using tax money, it's already built into the tax code one way or another.
Respectfully, you missed most of my point (or perhaps more accurately, I failed to communicate that point well?) I have no problem with tax money being used to promote government interests, including a bit of social engineering (on a limited scope.) However, as I have pointed out, the tax deductions (or increases) are different than appropriations. I can understand your confusion. It is not uncommon for a single bill to, for example, include both a change in the law that would spend tax money and a change in the tax code that would raise revenue to pay for that spending.
The distinction between tax-deduction-based "spending" and explicit appropriations-based spending are two-fold. The first is psychological/political. It's too easy for lawmakers to think of tax deductions as a reduction of or simplification of government, and to dress them up as such to the public. When we allow our government to spend money, we tend to see that as an increase in the size, power, and complexity of government. When we eventually have to raise taxes to pay for that spending, we think the same. Yet somehow, we're less inclined think the same thing when we try to achieve similar goals through selective tax cuts, despite the fact that changing the tax code (even to selectively reduce taxes) is still complicated, often requires an increase in bureaucracy to implement, and implicitly cedes more power to the government. Because so many people buy into this fiction, we often don't raise tax credits to the same sort of scrutiny as a spending bill. If someone says, "I want the federal government to pay full tuition for everyone for at least a four-year degree program," people will ask questions. Is this a worthwhile goal? Is this goal something government should be involved in? Is advancing that goal worth the cost of doing so? If, instead, you frame it as a tax credit, too many people stop asking those questions. And in case I was once again being too subtle, I think those are very important questions that we should be asking every time we give the government the power to do something.
The second distinction is practical. When tax money is appropriated and used for something, the government (or some private entity voluntarily agreeing to work with the government) is responsible for everything. The government handles the movement of funds. The original law determines--in the abstract--how those funds are used and who is to benefit from them, but the government is responsible for handling those questions on a more practical level. If it's a program to put money in the hands of certain people, then the government is responsible for identifying those people, setting rules for eligibility, establishing the screening or application process, and disbursing funds. The government handles most of the actual work, and imposes a burden of work only on those citizens specifically trying to benefit from that program. In contrast, the IRS currently imposes most of the burden of implementation on the tax-payer (or private third party service providers.) Worse, because all of these special breaks are put into the same system, and sometimes interdependent, you effectively impose a burden on every taxpayer of having to have at least a basic understanding of all
of crap we've added to the tax code, not just what might be most relevant to them.
On a superficial level, this may not seem like an important distinction. If you don't want an educational grant, you don't need to do the work to apply for it. If you don't want an educational tax credit, pretend it doesn't even exist on the tax forms. In practice, we've already put so many breaks into the tax code that many people can benefit from tax credits and deductions they might not have sought (and probably wasn't originally intended for them), and we've long recognized this fact and priced it into the system. So in practice, the only way to avoid overpaying into the system is to know everything in the system (or in most cases, to hire someone who does.) What this thicket of deductions and credits have done is essentially created an entire industry of tax preparation experts, and this isn't even considering the more complex aspects of the tax system that lend themselves to tax lawyering.