John Stossel: Taxing life away
Bob's my accountant. I like Bob, but I don't like that I have to have an accountant. I don't want to spend time keeping records and talking to Bob about boring things I don't understand, and I really don't want to pay Bob. But I have to.
The tax code is now complex enough that most Americans now hire Bob, or his equivalent. Instead of inventing things, doing charity work or just having fun, we waste weeks (and billions of dollars) on tax preparation.
"What the tax code is doing is trying to choose our values for us," complains Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute. I think I choose my own values, but it's true that politicians use taxes to manipulate us. Million-dollar mortgage deductions steer us to buy bigger houses, and solar tax credits persuaded me to put solar panels on my roof. Brook objects to every manipulation in the code: "It's telling us charity is good!"
That's possible, but since a charity will probably spend the money better than government will, isn't it good that the code encourages people to give? Steve Forbes argues that if taxes were flat and simple, Americans would give more. "Americans don't need to be bribed to give ... In the 1980s, when the top rate got cut from 70 down to 28 percent ... charitable giving went up. When people have more, they give more."
It's why we ended up with a sluggish health care market unresponsive to individual desires — leading to the insistence that we need a government-managed alternative like Obamacare.
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