Recently Marketplace on NPR did a segment on the possible taxation of bullets. Both the reporter of the piece and the anchor of the show seemed surprised a box of fifty 9mm bullets could be had for $20 plus state and local sales taxes. It was clear neither knew much about guns; $20 sounds cheap to anyone who hasn’t gone through a hundred dollars worth of ammo in less than an hour at the gun range. They also assumed that one shot equals one kill, a strategy that works in movies, video games and the elite snipers in the military but completely ignores the reality of shooting. Just as a photographer only improves by taking pictures, a shooter only becomes a marksman by sending rounds down-range. And not just a few dozen. It takes tens of thousands and no one is killed or injured in the process.
When liberals can’t ban something outright they love to tax it, something they learned in fairness from Conservatives who championed “sin taxes” on cigarettes and alcohol. They support their logic by pointing out Society pays a cost not borne by the consumer of the product, such as deaths and injuries from accidents caused by drunk drivers or the warming of the planet caused by fossil fuel burning. Taxes shift that cost back onto the consumer, and in response the consumer uses less. Of course this argument assumes the consumer is price sensitive which is only the case for the poor and middle class. The wealthiest can afford to do whatever they want, but that only reinforces the natural paternalism and aristocratic tendencies of the liberal who tends to be wealthier and believes he or she knows what’s best for the less fortunate.
Conservatives could learn a thing or two from Liberals and use the same logic to propose their own taxes.
Tax Abortions – All bullets do not kill people, but all abortions do. The lifetime earnings of a child lost to abortion is $1.8 million for a college graduate. Of course raising a child costs money as well, about $200k in the USA, so subtracting that figure from the $1.8 million leaves us with $1.6 million in lost wages. Assuming a 25% tax rate on those earnings, each abortion costs the state $400,000 in lost revenue. By murdering a future taxpayer who would work to provide Social Security benefits to the elderly, abortionists and the women who use them are burdening society with fewer children at a time when it needs all the young people it can get to support the retiring Baby Boomers. Contraceptives could be taxed for similar reasons. Such a tax could not make up for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue, but it would encourage people to have more children which are needed to allow Baby Boomers to live as long as possible without contributing anything to Society beyond their excessive narcissism. At the very least raising a potential tax on the practices would also teach the anti-gun rights lobby who happen to be pro-abortion that undermining an actual right in the Constitution can also endanger the imaginary right underlying the legality of abortion.
Tax Movies - Between the end of World War II and the mid 1950’s movies were taxed at a 20% rate. This is the same industry that floods our society with ultra-violent movies which dehumanizes and encourages violence. It is time Hollywood pays its fair share to clean up the mess it has made. In a similar vein we should apply the 20% tax to the recording industry which is straight out of the feudal era, enslaving tens of thousands of artists through the RIAA while encouraging sexist and homophobic behavior in rap music. What is the cost to our society of rap music? Is 20% really enough to pay for the damage caused? And what about the damage caused by insipid acts like Grace Jones-wannabee Lady Gaga?
I thought about taxing porn but since no one pays for it anymore I figured doing so was pointless.
An Apple Tax – If you can afford an Apple product you can afford another 30%. It’s not that Apple products are bad gadgets. They are well designed and innovative at times. But they cause three problems. First, the fan boys who raise the blood pressure of anyone unfortunate enough to be stuck working with them or worse, living with them. Has the CDC quantified the number of lives lost due to heart attacks/strokes caused by Apple fan boys? If not why not? I suspect it’s because the CDC is full of people listening to Lady Gaga on their iPods. And what about those poor unfortunate Chinese slaves making their products at Foxconn? You know, the ones who are so overworked they’ve taken to throwing themselves off any ledge taller than they are? Then there’s the environmental damage caused to the Chinese countryside. Do Apple owners understand that their products are not crapped out by unicorns fed marshmallows by elves, and instead have played a significant role in the destruction and poisoning of the environment in China? Do you know what chemicals Foxconn uses to produce the chips and circuit boards it uses in Apple products? Would you be willing to drink from a river downstream from a Foxconn plant? How about inhale deeply near one?
Tax fuel efficient vehicles – The gas tax has traditionally been the way our state and federal governments have paid for the upkeep of roads, from the local winding country road nearby to the massive interstates that bisect the country. Imagine two cars, say a Nissan Xterra that gets 15 mpg and a Toyota Prius that gets 45 mpg. Both cars travel the same interstate 450 miles, so the Xterra uses 30 gallons of fuel verses only 10 gallons for the Prius. While both cars traveled the same road the same distance, the Xterra paid 3x the amount of tax than the Prius. Is this fair? Yes the Prius uses less gas but since it doesn’t drive less it’s actually avoiding taxes – freeloading on the system. “So buy a Prius,” the Prius owner might say, but if the Xterra owner does the state would still lose 20 gallons worth of tax on that 450 mile journey. How is it going to make up the shortfall? The solution is easy: force the Prius owners to pay an extra tax to makeup for the lost revenue caused by their selfish behavior.
Tax public sector workers who take jobs in the private sector in industries they used to regulate. Called amakudari or “descent from heaven” in Japanese, this practice weakens regulatory authority by rewarding public servants for helping companies undo or avoid the regulations they put in place while working for the taxpayer. It also encourages bureaucrats currently in their posts to avoid harsh regulations or penalties opposed by the companies they expect to join in the future once their tenure in public service draws to a close. One way to discourage this practice would be a 50% tax on salary and bonuses over ten years earned by bureaucrats who work in industries they regulated. Such a tax would encourage bureaucrats to act in the public’s interest instead of their own.
Tax regulation proposals - The Tragedy of the Commons teaches us anything free will be abused and that includes regulation. Because there is no cost to a bureaucrat or agency to propose a regulation or levy a tax, regulations and taxes proliferate. Such red tape strangles innovation while doing little to conserve public resources, but how to tax it? One way would be for elected politicians to propose a ten percent budget “tax” on every state, local and federal agency, then offer tax deductions for each regulation that is sunset and taken off the books. This would provide an incentive for bureaucrats to remove outdated, contradictory and badly written regulations from the books.
Tax Wall Street (Seriously) – The usage of tax policy doesn’t have to be a partisan issue. There are some issues such as a transaction tax on Wall Street trades that have been proposed by liberal Democrats which Conservatives can agree on. The flash crashes caused by high speed trades using algorithms that few understand have roiled the markets and weakened capitalism. While such a tax, only a third of one percent as proposed in the latest bill, would net the Treasury little, it would curb excessive speculation by deterring the practice of leveraging time and other market differential to hold a position for a few instants before selling it at a profit, a process euphemistically known as “chasing nickels in front of a steam roller.” Besides, Wall Street long ago switched its allegiance to the Democrats (see Barney Frank, Chris Dodd and other politicians who should have been jailed for their roles in the 2008 economic meltdown). Obama’s ties to Goldman Sachs are deeper than the man he replaced in the Oval Office, so why should Conservatives pursue policies that benefit Wall Street at the expense of Main Street? If that sounds like an Occupy Wall Street meme, it is what it is. Crony capitalism is not a conservative virtue; in fact it is the antithesis of everything Conservatism stands for.
Conservatives and their libertarian allies dislike taxes as a matter of political philosophy, but they need to recognize their power as a weapon in political combat. Liberals have, which is why conservatives are on their heels after the past election. Proposals such as those above would make any such budget discussion a fair fight.