May 21, 2014

"If we did implement a wealth tax, should it tax tenure?"

"Professorial tenure is, after all, a valuable asset. As long as you show up and teach your classes, and you don’t make passes at your students or steal from the department’s petty cash drawer, you can draw a paycheck for the rest of your working life."

That's Megan McArdle, possibly pushing back the lefty academics who are enthusiastic about taxing wealth.

Midway through the piece, she shifts topics from tenure as wealth to the enjoying your job as wealth. Instead of continuing with the job of professor — a job I find immensely enjoyable — she talks about the job of big-media news reporter — maybe because it's the job she knows but maybe because she wants to push back lefty reporters.

She compares the job of big-media news reporters to the job of someone working in a non-famous accounting department. This part of the article amused me because — even though I agree jobs that pay the same may have greatly different value — McArdle, a big-media reporter, assumes that being a big-media reporter is immensely more enjoyable than working in accounting. She regards things like work travel and getting fed at receptions and seeing that other people recognize the name of your employer as big pluses. But some people like to stay close to home and loath aspects of work that resemble genuine social functions with friends and scoff or puzzle at lines like: "When [a big-media reporter] tells people where he works, he gets to see their eyes light up and his impressiveness immediately rise four notches — six, if he reports on something really cool."

It's far more subjective than McArdle acknowledges. But even if we could all agree that it's better to eat out and get far from home and impress people with the name of your employer, we couldn't put a number on it. Imagine doing your taxes and getting to the line where you're supposed to put a dollar value on the enjoyability of your job. Did you just double your salary? Or were you trying to eke out a deduction?

McArdle doesn't really support trying to tax these things. She's mainly brainstorming in resistance to the charms of the book she is reading, Thomas Piketty’s "Capital in the Twenty-First Century."

ADDED: Rereading my phrase "aspects of work that resemble genuine social functions with friends," I am reminded of the idea of the "uncanny valley":
The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some human observers. Examples can be found in the fields of robotics, 3D computer animation, and in medical fields such as burn reconstruction, infectious diseases, neurological conditions, and plastic surgery. The "valley" refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of humans as subjects move toward a healthy, natural human likeness described in a function of a subject's aesthetic acceptability.
I think that some human observers feel this kind of revulsion about work-related social events. Isn't this what the TV show "The Office" was often about? I have to ask because I've barely ever watched the show, which I can't enjoy because of how awful these events do feel to me. It's the uncanny valley between work and your personal life. There are people who feel good in that place, and they are not only revolting, like a too-realistic robot, but they are often in a position to compel you to participate in these events, and they are powered on by their belief that they are making the workplace better and taking on the task of staging these horrors.

63 comments:

rhhardin said...

Tax seed corn. That way there will be a lot more food to distribute.

Anonymous said...

Crazy Street Corner Guy Off His Meds Says:

Harvey Keitel says to live without the Shame you must be Honest. He says he heard something like that in a song somewhere. Harvey lives without the blue tangled thickets of Shame.

Birkel said...

"She's mainly brainstorming in resistance to charms of the book she is reading," Karl Marx's Das Kapital.

I guess if we redefine what the word "charm" means we can write all sorts of ridiculous sentences.

boxty woot said...

Why do we all need to agree? Did we all agree on Obamacare? If the government bean counters think they can devise a system to cover 350+ million people, I'm sure they can come up with a dollar figure for such intangibles as job satisfaction.

B said...

If a tenured professor doesn't do research, then they're hardly different than an adjunct. Tenure salary minus adjunct salary is the value of that asset.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

We already have a wealth tax - ad-valorem property taxes.

Alvin invests $1,000,000 in common stocks, hoping for capital gain.

Barbara invests $1,000,000 in real estate properties, hoping for capital gain.

Barbara pays about 3% annually in ad-valorem property taxes. Alvin pays nothing.

(Oh, and Barbara has $800,000 in debt to fund her investment, so her real equity is $200,000 and the tax burden is 15% vs 0% for Alvin.)

In any discussion the most offensive four letter word I hear is 'fair'.

Blue@9 said...

I think that some human observers feel this kind of revulsion about work-related social events.

Many of us don't feel revulsion, just fatigue. Introverts (and I'm one) don't get a kick out of large social gatherings. Forced social interaction in group settings is particularly unenjoyable, which is why you'll see folks like us hovering around the exits, looking for the right opportunity to take off.

Xmas said...

I think she underestimates the joys of accounting. She needs to visit with some Accenture consultants sometime. Ahh...the joys of working on a $30 a day meal expenses in Manhattan. What a life!

Ann Althouse said...

"If a tenured professor doesn't do research, then they're hardly different than an adjunct. Tenure salary minus adjunct salary is the value of that asset."

An adjunct takes a tiny salary because there is some intangible benefit, some augmentation to career goals. A lawyer in town might teach a whole law school course for a few thousand dollars, not because that's all the work really warrants as pay, but because it gives him prestige and builds his expertise (or appearance of expertise). That adds value for him.

Also, a tenured professor has sacrificed another career path where the pay would have been far higher, because he's looked at the whole career and decided that for him the job security is worth a lot. People make different investments at different points in their career.

BDNYC said...

Why should we tax (and therefore discourage) income (i.e., productivity) and wealth (i.e., accumulated savings)? Aren't income and wealth good things that should be promoted?

Taking as a given that we need revenue to fund government, shouldn't we still be designing our tax code to be as neutral and economically-efficient as possible? Why not tax consumption instead? Heck, there can even be a special carbon tax for the lefties.

tim in vermont said...

My sister is a retired school teacher and her pension and benefits would cost me millions to set up for myself. Why shouldn't it be taxed?

The funny thing is that she is very high and mighty about not caring about money. Why should she? She is set for life. I don't really begrudge her her pension, I just think that it is pretty funny the way people think about who is actually rich.

cubanbob said...

Why not kill all of the communists? They consume much, produce nothing and given the chance enslave us. Parasites with no redeeming features is what they are.

B said...

An adjunct takes a tiny salary because there is some intangible benefit, some augmentation to career goals.

That's not true of the vast majority of adjuncts. Most don't work in industry while teaching on the side. They're academics who can't get tenure-track positions.

Also, a tenured professor has sacrificed another career path where the pay would have been far higher

All assets have opportunity costs. Some forgone alternate use of that resource. Why should the sacrificed opportunity matter to the tax collector?

cubanbob said...

Also, a tenured professor has sacrificed another career path where the pay would have been far higher, because he's looked at the whole career and decided that for him the job security is worth a lot. People make different investments at different points in their career."

You just made a good case to impose a wealth tax on public sector workers including tenured professors.

Ann Althouse said...

"That's not true of the vast majority of adjuncts. Most don't work in industry while teaching on the side. They're academics who can't get tenure-track positions."

I thought the commenter I was responding to meant to refer to law schools, and I restrict my comment to that setting.

The people who get advanced degrees in fields where they can only work in academics and then cannot get a tenure-track job are in a terrible position, but I don't think the salary they accept is a fair measure of what the tenured professor "really" deserves. The adjunct took the career path he did because he believed he could get to the rewards of tenure. He'd have invested in his career in a different way if he knew what was going to happen, I would think. It's more like someone who wants to work in publishing and keeps interning, taking no pay at all.

MadisonMan said...

a tenured professor has sacrificed another career path where the pay would have been far higher

I don't know why you use the verb would. In your own case, you don't know how the future would have played out. Would you have been tossed away in your mid-30s/early 40s as your value to the firm dropped after having kids? Or just burned out?

It seems to me that the money socked away by the State on the behalf of state workers, though, should be taxed -- it is, after all, part of the compensation. The likelihood of this happening is zero because State Legislators would be voting to increase the tax on their own salaries and even the most die-hard of govt-spender hawks isn't going to pass that.

I know people at PSU who have a great benefit: 3/4 off tuition for their kids. Is this taxed? No. Why not?

cubanbob said...

From the perspective of a parent who has and will again pay full freight for his kids education what exactly is the qualitative difference between an adjunct professor and a tenured professor?

Nonapod said...

Also, a tenured professor has sacrificed another career path where the pay would have been far higher,

Perhaps that's true for Law Professors in most cases, or many STEM fields, but is that true for people with degrees in some of the more esoteric liberal arts type fields?

EDH said...

You can quantify defined benefit pensions, however. From Instapundit:

AMERICA’S FASTEST-GROWING CLASS OF MILLIONAIRES? Public Employees. “Who are America’s fastest-growing class of millionaires? They are police officers, firefighters, teachers and federal bureaucrats, who, unless things change drastically, will be paid something near their full salaries every year–until death–after retiring in their mid-50s. That is equivalent to a retirement sum worth millions of dollars. . . . So when you hear that government workers now make, on average, 30% more than private-sector workers, you’re not getting the full story. Government workers, on average, make more than twice as much as private-sector workers when you include the net present value of their pensions. How long can this last?” Until the money runs out, or the marks wise up.

Wealth is savings, plus returns.

(1) Do we really want to incentivize consuming more, saving less, in order to avoid the tax man?

(2) Would such a scheme actually improve the government's finances, or harm them?

Ironically, taxing the imputed wealth of defined benefit public pensions would probably help the government's finances (by increasing the private savings rate among that group) whereas taxing private savings would, in the long run, harm the government's finances (by lowering the savings rate among everyone else).

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't know why you use the verb would. In your own case, you don't know how the future would have played out. Would you have been tossed away in your mid-30s/early 40s as your value to the firm dropped after having kids? Or just burned out?"

I agree that "would" connotes more certainty than existed. Indeed, my point is that taking a lawprof tenure-track position was a much safer bet longterm than continuing as a "partner-track" associate at a big, famous Wall Street law firm.

Of course, I knew myself and my own predilections. And I knew the kind of person I was compared to the kind of person my competitors seemed to be.

mccullough said...

McCardle thinks most in the academy and big media are petty and envious. I would add the government to the list of the Axis of Envy

PB Reader said...

All those civil service pensions that start at 52 years old and pay $80k for life certainly represent wealth - about $2 million is required to support that payout.

Ann Althouse said...

"It seems to me that the money socked away by the State on the behalf of state workers, though, should be taxed -- it is, after all, part of the compensation. The likelihood of this happening is zero because State Legislators would be voting to increase the tax on their own salaries and even the most die-hard of govt-spender hawks isn't going to pass that."

Pay packages are structured they way they are in part because of the tax consequences. If the rules of the game were different, different moves would have been made all along.

If you change tax rules, you won't capture the money you think we're losing. You'll change behavior.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

This is stupid. One of the curses of modern civilization is that job instability causes people to have to move too often (which for instance causes people to not care as much about their local community and environment) and to too often spend time searching for jobs, both activities that tend to be harmful to society as a whole. Since externalities should be taxed, one could on the contrary with justification argue that companies that do not offer a reasonable amount of job security should be taxed.

And her arguments make no economic sense. Just because something is pleasant doesn't mean it should be taxed. Clean drinking water is more pleasant and important than having a car, but they should not be taxed equally as if disregarding the cost it takes to produce them. If an employer can without greatly increasing the cost to itself make its employees' work experience better, it should do so. Thus, if an employer can spend $1000 (e.g., by hiring more workers or improving work environment) to make work easier so employees would do the same work for $1001 less, the employer would be stupid not to do so, and it would be stupid for the government to tax the employer so that this would not happen to ideal extent. True, things should be taxed equally, but then that already happens. If teachers with tenure work less than other teachers, the University will have to hire more teachers to make up for it, whose salaries will like all salaries already be taxed. Another way of looking at it is that what would be done for a firm to give a benefit is already likely to be more-or-less taxed at the same rate as the salary of the employees who benefit. Of course, if an employee can benefit employees for less than the benefit the employees receive, taxing the employees additionally for such benefits is not only stupid but extreme idiocy, because those are precisely the sort of benefits that are beneficial to both employees and employer, which it would be highly asinine to discourage.

EDH said...

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...
Barbara pays about 3% annually in ad-valorem property taxes. Alvin pays nothing. (Oh, and Barbara has $800,000 in debt to fund her investment, so her real equity is $200,000 and the tax burden is 15% vs 0% for Alvin.)

Point taken, but Barb also gets to write-off her property taxes and interest from her income at her highest marginal income tax rate.

Plus there's a $250k/$500k exclusion on capital gains from the qualified sale of a home.

And you forget state capital gains taxes and Obama's round-trip Medicare surtaxes on capital gains.

TosaGuy said...

How about a tax on those who think they will wield the power in Pickety's world.

Ann Althouse said...

"Perhaps that's true for Law Professors in most cases, or many STEM fields, but is that true for people with degrees in some of the more esoteric liberal arts type fields?"

Which is why the bet you are making in going into a grad program in these fields is a very different kind of bet. If you have no career alternative, that affects the market value of the work you are offering to do.

People who take up those fields must really love them, but they must know the risk they are taking.

I would love to have had a tenured position teaching the poetry of Shakespeare or the novels of Thomas Hardy, but I was not bold enough to take that risk.

chuck said...

It's far more subjective than McArdle acknowledges.

I recall lying in a hospital bed when I was eleven and, because there wasn't much else to do, thinking about precisely that problem of work valuation in order to design a perfect society. It was at that point that I gave up on equality, and later, socialism. When I got to an Ivy college later on it was surprising to me that few of my fellow students had reached age eleven in their thinking. It wasn't lack of intelligence, they were all pretty smart, they just tended to think in abstractions.

cubanbob said...

If you change tax rules, you won't capture the money you think we're losing. You'll change behavior."

For new hires, no. For those currently on the job and vested in the pension plan and those already retired and on the plan you most definitely capture more money as they are locked in. Tax the hell out of them until all they net is what they would have received under social security as per their social security wages calculations. And even with that they are still ahead if they retire before age sixty five.

B said...

I don't think the salary they accept is a fair measure of what the tenured professor "really" deserves. The adjunct took the career path he did because he believed he could get to the rewards of tenure. He'd have invested in his career in a different way if he knew what was going to happen, I would think. It's more like someone who wants to work in publishing and keeps interning, taking no pay at all.

I've got a little dialogue going with Althouse. I feel special.

I don't agree with your way of framing the conversation. Forgiving bad decisions shouldn't factor into how you value an asset. Nor should moral pleadings about what's deserved.

The simple fact is a college professor's value as a teacher is pretty well represented by adjunct salaries.

Andy Freeman said...

> Also, a tenured professor has sacrificed another career path where the pay would have been far higher, because he's looked at the whole career and decided that for him the job security is worth a lot.

If it's "worth a lot" then surely there can't be any objection to taxing it "a lot".

Larry J said...

tim in vermont said...
My sister is a retired school teacher and her pension and benefits would cost me millions to set up for myself. Why shouldn't it be taxed?

The funny thing is that she is very high and mighty about not caring about money. Why should she? She is set for life. I don't really begrudge her her pension, I just think that it is pretty funny the way people think about who is actually rich.


Most of us working in the private sector have to save for our own retirement. We do that by contributing to a 401K and/or IRA. When we retire, we get to pay income tax on our derived retirement income. Such a deal.

Meanwhile, many government employees pay little or nothing in their retirement plans. When they retire, they're usually exempt from state income taxes.

How much is a pension worth? One way is to compare how much in retirement savings one would have to accumulate in order to earn the same amount of money in interest payments. It's actually more complicated than that because of taxation and the inheritability of the savings verses that of a pension. Still, in rough terms, for every $1000 a month in retirement income, you'd need to accummulate $240,000 in savings to be able to withdraw that amount each month, based on a generous 5% rate of return which is hard to come by today. Someone drawing $4000 a month would need almost a million dollars in savings to be equivalent and that's not factoring in the savings on state income taxes. If they ever implement a wealth tax, then pensions should be taxed the same as retirement savings. After all, we must be fair, right?

paul a'barge said...

Megan McArdle voted for Barack Obama - both times.

I'm guessing she's right at home chez Althouse who voted for Obama (the first time).

sean said...

I shared Prof. Althouse's amusement at McArdle's view that the life of a magazine writer is so much better than that of a mid-level corporate accountant Connecticut, but McArdle's view is probably the majority one. McArdle's Ivy League credentials are not unusual in prestige journalism (several of my Yale classmates have similar jobs), whereas the mid-level accountant is probably a UConn grad. So clearly a significant number of people who could have worked at Bain or Goldman Sachs have chosen journalism, whereas the accountant probably did not have the option of a higher-paying career.

tim in vermont said...

"Pay packages are structured they way they are in part because of the tax consequences. If the rules of the game were different, different moves would have been made all along." -AA

I think the point is that so many people who are beneficiaries of pensions that make them objectively "rich" use "tax the rich" arguments to protect their own prerogatives. Fine, just don't be surprised to be called hypocritical and you can pretend to not know it, but you can't not know it.

This is for you Garage.

Matthew Sablan said...

If we start taxing wealth, expect a lot of jobs to move to things like tenure/hidden "wealth" [flex time, work from home, etc.]

How much should we tax someone the luxury of working at home, for example? That's a HUGE amount of wealth [saved in lower travel costs, more "uptime" at work, lower non-productive time in transit, more leisure time, etc.] If we tax wealth, a job that gives you benefits may need to start calculating that into its total compensation package [which we currently neatly elide by taxing "income."]

William said...

The purpose of the first of Stalin's five year plans and Mao's Great Leap Forward was to increase steel production. These efforts were responsible for the death of millions. Andrew Carnegie increased steel production in the USA phenomenally and didn't kill millions to do it. In retrospect, we can see that what America led the world in was not the production of steel but the production of men like Andrew Carnegie.......So long as Communism produces men like Stalin and capitalism produces men like Carnegie, then, in all comparisons between the two systems, Marxism will suffer. The easy way to solve this problem is to tax men like Carnegie out of existence. If there are no Carnegies, there will be no more invidious comparisons between socialism and capitalism, and we can all move on to a better future.

President-Mom-Jeans said...

Blasphemy!

How dare anyone propose that Meade doesn't get to collect some of that sweet taxpayer money he didn't earn.

Things look a lot different when it's your ox up for some goring, eh Althouse?

bbkingfish said...

Why is it that the arguments of libertarians always sound like they were formulated by 12-year olds (If McArdle's not libertarian, I apologize...but only for calling her a libertarian)?

Ralph Hyatt said...

Dislike phony baloney office office social events an aspect of the uncanny valley phenomenon - great insight.

McArdle doesn't seem to be able to conceptualize that someone might value a job unlike hers.

I, for instance, work in IT on projects that require intense amounts of concentration for hours on end writing code in scripting languages, some of which I am learning as I go. I love this job. The idea of spending my time going to "social events" where people are feeding me bullshit and pretending to be my friend is how I conceptualize hell.

Some of us are incredibly fortunate in that we are able to find jobs that we like.

MarkW said...

It's really not that hard to measure these things. Let's consider, say, the job security and benefits of K12 teachers. You could poll K12 teachers and ask them how much extra you'd have to pay to get them to give up tenure, retirement by age 60 with health coverage and a pension and a 9-month work calendar. Then poll private sector workers to see how much of a pay cut they'd accept in exchange for iron-clad job security plus all the other benefits.

Mike said...

If a tenured professor doesn't do research, then they're hardly different than an adjunct. Tenure salary minus adjunct salary is the value of that asset.

Except that adjuncts aren't expected to do as much committee work and advising as tenure-line faculty. I am a tenured associate professor of Spanish at a mid-level state university. There is a research expectation, but not to the extent that you would find at a large research university. I do, however, serve on a variety of committees that adjuncts do not or cannot serve on.

Ann Althouse said...

"So clearly a significant number of people who could have worked at Bain or Goldman Sachs have chosen journalism, whereas the accountant probably did not have the option of a higher-paying career."

But in terms of present enjoyment, what does having had a choice in the past mean? It could mean that you got closer to your true love, but it could mean that you took the lure of prestige and high pay and it wasn't really "you."

If you got into a good college, you still chose your major, and maybe many things were easier for you. Less pressure to hit the heights. Attention to social and love relationships. Then, the job you trained for, and a predictable, productive work life, with plenty of ease of mind and time with friends and family. No anguish about climbing to the next and the next rung.

Who is happier?

Mike said...

Another thing that should be factored into this discussion is one's relative immobility once you have tenure.

I know many people in the private sector who seem to change jobs as easily as they change their underwear. However, if you are an academic and want to change jobs -- and stay in academia -- your options are limited, unless you are a superstar being actively recruited by the major university of your dreams. Jobs are announced a year in advance, and the process moves slowly. In other words, I can't just move someplace less expensive and expect to walk over to the local university and land a job just because they like me.

Ann Althouse said...

I see that you're saying the journalist probably chose a lower paying job than something else (which makes it more like the law professor job).

So the journalist making $100,000 has reason to be more/less satisfied than the accountant making the same amount of money… not sure how that goes. Depends on the person and how they process the facts of their own life.

I could say I walked away from what would be a salary 10 times what mine is and feel bad about it or get inside the idea that the choice was made because the lifestyle was so much better and really believe that it is. Voila: happiness.

What is happiness?

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...


Don't forget George Clooney. Strip him of every worldly possession and he is still wealthier than 99% of the rest of us.

Michael said...

Professor Althouse wrote:
Pay packages are structured they way they are in part because of the tax consequences. If the rules of the game were different, different moves would have been made all along."

Remember, fondly, our hero Ronald Reagan? Well, his administration changed the tax law rather dramatically in 1984. The law retroactively made changes that were devastating to a whole class of investors who took advantage of tax laws that were tailored to attract them to real estate by permitting accelerated depreciation. Presto. Gone. All the doctors and lawyers and airplane pilots who had invested heavily in tax shelter deals were handed a very mean present.

Do not think the Government cannot or will not do certain things.


Clayton Cramer said...

"An adjunct takes a tiny salary"

should be "An adjunct takes a infinitesimal salary (or so it seems)"

The maximum that an adjunct can make, assuming that he or she gets the seven classes per year maximum allowed, is about $18,000 gross. From that princely sum, you get buy health insurance. And ours is one of the better paid community colleges in the country.

EDH said...

Inequality Illusion: Why a Wealth Tax Won't

For one, a progressive wealth tax requires making arbitrary decisions. According to the latest Federal Reserve wealth survey, the 90th percentile of wealth is just under $1 million. That may be a fortune to a 25-year-old starting out, but to a 65-year-old facing uncertain medical expenses, it provides a “middle class” retirement. Taxes on wealth at this level would affect retirement, long-term care, and health care decisions. But it would do little to address whatever negative consequences wealth concentration might have.

Suppose, though, that we could manage to limit wealth taxes to the super wealthy. Even then, a wealth tax is not an effective equalizer. A recent comprehensive study of best taxation practices, headed by the economics Nobel Prize­–winner James Mirrlees, explicitly favored taxing the income wealth generates -- capital income -- instead of wealth itself. This is because a tax on wealth automatically preferences the well positioned wealthy relative to others -- and not just because the well-positioned wealthy can set up offshore tax havens.

Imagine that wealth earns a five percent nominal return. A 20 percent tax on income, then, would collect about the same amount of revenue as a one percent tax on wealth. But suppose you earn above the market rate, as wealthier people often do, because of their investment talents or ability to take advantage of opportunities not available to others. The wealth tax is forgiving –- it will tax these extraordinary returns at only one percent –- while a capital income tax would continue to tax them at 20 percent. Disguising labor earnings as capital income, for example, by relying on carried interest, compensation using equity stakes, or certain types of stock options would lead to a similar distortion. In a sense, taxing wealth rather than income gives a subsidy to anyone who earns above market returns either through skills, luck, or privileged market access. In other words, it does just the opposite of what champions of wealth taxation desire.

Bob Ellison said...

You are strangely critical of McArdle, Professor. (I must admit that I like her work quite a lot.)

But you're right about the "uncanny valley" comparison.

What can't be taxed?

What is the moral view of taxation? The taxmen don't seem to have bothered to consider the question.

Bob Ellison said...

By the way, while we're writing about a hypothetical "wealth tax", can't we just call it what it would be?

STEALING.

Michael said...

Professor:

I forget that you abandoned a career at a white shoe Manhattan firm in favor of teaching. You are being modest when you say you could be making ten times more than you are now. Could be a whole lot more than that.

I went the opposite direction. Much to my surprise the politics and infighting of the corporate world were but a fraction of what I had experienced in the college faculty rooms. I found business much more agreeable. Stressful at times but in general more agreeable.

There is a better than even chance that the government will get its beak in all of our retirement accounts. I am afraid it will have to.

Will said...

Very very well said William ( difference between Carnegie and Stalin)

Matthew Sablan said...

Taxes are not theft; they can be LIKE theft, and in an oppressive enough regime, they may indeed be theft. But, in America, as it is today, taxes are not theft.

Bob Ellison said...

Matthew Sablan, taxes are of course theft. Let's be plain with the language.

One steals in order to do something with the spoils.

Rich guys like Warren Buffett saying "we should tax more" doesn't establish morality. It's still stealing. We should agree to such things via the vote. That makes such takings amenable.

Wealth taxes are obvious theft. Other sorts of taxes are theft not so obvious-- how does one justify a dollar a cigarette in NYC? Someone is stealing. I watch basketball and say "someone committed a foul there; not sure who did it, but there was a foul".

Someone took the money. By what right? For what porpoise? Where did the money come from originally?

Misinforminimalism said...

Why not tax the present value of long-term contracts? Isn't the right to do business and reap the rewards of that a form of wealth? Certainly it could be sold and monetized, just like a stock or bond.

And what about licenses? Seems to me that carrying a plumber's license is worth a mint, since they get paid more than most lawyers in my neck of the woods. We could tax the law and medical licenses too, of course. Liquor licenses would be particularly lucrative. But to avoid equal protection problems, you'd have to tax licensed cosmetologists at least something.

Sounds like an idea everyone can get behind!

MadisonMan said...

Meanwhile, many government employees pay little or nothing in their retirement plans. When they retire, they're usually exempt from state income taxes.

A function of the State. It's true in PA -- no tax on pensions (which the State Legislators draw) and a reason Dad won't move out. Pensions in Wisconsin are taxed. I don't think they're taxed in FL.

I'm not sure if not taxing seniors is a win for the state, cost-wise. Seniors drawing pensions will spend money, but do they cost the State more than they spend? I don't know.

Bob Ellison said...

Tax every pretty girl.

grackle said...

The idea of spending my time going to "social events" where people are feeding me bullshit and pretending to be my friend is how I conceptualize hell.

Why the scare quotes? These gatherings ARE social events in every sense of the phrase. Is all conversation at a gathering simply bullshit? Maybe too much is expected; are the people at these events pretending to be friends or are they merely being friendly? Isn't it understood by most that the interaction isn't meant to be deeply significant emotionally?

I think one of the purposes of rubbing shoulders with co-workers in a social setting is to make working together back on the job more meaningful, more empathic. It's a lubricant that, if it's understood for what it is, can make the workplace function better.

n.n said...

Sure, why not. We already have a survivors privilege tax (aka health care "reform").

It should tax academic privilege; but, also physical privilege, including: genetic privilege, mental privilege, eye-color privilege, hair-color privilege, hair-quantity and quality privilege, liver privilege, kidney privilege, height privilege, etc.; and geographical privilege, period privilege, historical privilege (e.g. inherited sin tax), genomic privilege (e.g. collective sin tax), etc.

n.n said...

As for tenure tax, compensation is commensurate to position, not achievement, so tenured faculty will be taxed at the same rate.

Zach said...

For what it's worth, actuaries are supposed to be some of the happiest people in America. Great money, great job satisfaction. Apparently, people who like actuarial science love actuarial science.

The moral of the story is, know yourself.

Strelnikov said...

Once we go down the rabbithole of discussing what should be in such a tax, we tacitly accept the idea of the tax itself.