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Comment Re:Great idea (Score 1) 377

Google "personal expenditure tax". Economists have been fond of it for a long time, although it's almost never been implemented. Basically it's just a modification of the current income tax, where instead of computing income once a year, you compute consumption = income - savings (where debt is equivalent to negative savings, so borrowing is added, eliminating the buy/borrow loophole, and paying off debt is subtracted). The current system already has income being reported to the IRS, and I don't recall reading any concerns that the invasion of privacy would be worse than now.

Comment Re:Great idea (Score 1) 377

Your argument wasn't very convincing. Your plan is essentially to give them an unlimited 401k tax shelter.

Yes, basically to give everyone an unlimited 401k (with no RMD at age 70.5). Like a 401k, the money gets taxed when it's taken out (when it's spent). And if the tax rate is highly progressive, when the balance gets high enough, there's no way to spend it as fast as it's growing without incurring a very high tax rate. The only other ways to avoid that are to either watch it grow forever, without ever spending more than enough to avoid the high tax rate (which is unlikely given that inherited money is usually squandered within 3 generations, and also pointless, because then why have that much money?), or to give it away. I suppose a rich family could theoretically breed like rabbits as a loophole if they didn't want to give it to charity.

Comment Re:Great idea (Score 1) 377

How about your typical state sales tax? I don't think that's progressive or regressive: everyone pays the same rate, regardless of income.

It can be considered regressive in the sense that poor people spend a greater fraction of their earnings, so the amount they pay in sales tax is a greater fraction of their earnings (even though the tax rate is the same).

That's what the "prebate" in national sales tax proposals attempt to deal with. It makes the tax progressive at the very low income end, close to the poverty level (in fact, below the poverty level, you'd get money back). Unfortunately, it rapidly becomes flat as income rises above the poverty level. If a consumption tax is implemented as a personal consumption tax (tax income - savings = consumption once a year according to a tax table), that doesn't have to be true - the rate can continue to rise with rising consumption, since the progressivity is built into the tax table.

Comment Re:Great idea (Score 1) 377

The buy/borrow loophole is pretty much built into any tax based on income (due to the realization requirement on cap gains and the fact that borrowed money is not considered income). Good luck on closing it without changing the tax base from income to something else. And a wealth tax would probably be counterproductive as rich people would flee, except for taxing property which people can't take with them.

Besides, I already pointed out in my original comment how a consumption tax can be just as progressive as an income tax. Why do you keep insisting that it has to be regressive? Is it because the tax isn't imposed preemptively, before people decide to spend? People aren't going to hoard their money forever - eventually the heirs will squander it, as happens to all fortunes eventually, and then it will get taxed at a high rate (and the people squandering it don't care about the tax, which makes collecting tax a lot easier than if it was imposed on the people originally earning the money).

And in the meantime the payroll tax, which is literally a regressive tax, and is a bigger burden to low- and middle-income people than the income tax, continues and no one cares about it. If you're concerned with loopholes, start with that one.

Comment Re:Great idea (Score 1) 377

Lifestyle is determined by consumption, not wealth or income. The tax is paid when the money is spent, at a much higher rate than the rich pay now (which is as low as zero - see buy/borrow/die). The rich already have the no-limit tax shelter under the current tax system, and unlike the consumption tax, it allows them to spend as much as they want.

Comment Re:Great idea (Score 1) 377

1) If a consumption tax is implemented as a personal expenditure tax, instead of a sales tax or VAT, it can be just as progressive as the current income tax. Instead of computing income for the year and looking up the tax in a table, compute income - savings = consumption for the year instead. The progressivity is built into the tax table.

2) Don't overlook that for most people, the biggest tax burden is not the income tax, but the payroll tax, which is literally regressive (since it taxes every dollar of income at a flat rate up to a certain threshold, where the SS part of the tax goes to zero, so the rate is much lower for high incomes). Basically it has a high income cutoff rather than a low income cutoff, like the income tax. It also generally doesn't touch investment income, only wages. Even a "flat" consumption tax (with a prebate to cancel the tax for spending below the poverty level) together with eliminating the payroll tax, would probably be more progressive than the current tax system.

Comment Re:Things to solve (Score 1) 253

If old people don't die, and young people keep making babies,

People in developed countries generally don't aspire to have as many children as they can before their biological clock runs out. They decide they want to have X children, for some fixed X, and stop after that. If people live longer, it probably means they'll have the same number of children, but over a longer time, which would reduce population growth. They might even put it off indefinitely (since their biological clock isn't ticking anymore) which would reduce it even more.

Comment That's just how the media works (Score 1) 270

He has a valid point, to some extent. On the other hand, that's just how the media works - it's also more likely to report deaths by plane crashes, or terrorism, or mass shootings, because that's what people want to read about. Also, those other things have a long history of causing only a small relative number of deaths, while autonomous vehicles are new, and deserve some higher level of scrutiny in the early years.

Submission + - Crash: how automation is setting us up for disaster (

Esteanil writes: We increasingly let computers fly planes and carry out security checks. Driverless cars are next. But is our reliance on automation dangerously diminishing our skills?

When a sleepy Marc Dubois walked into the cockpit of his own aeroplane, he was confronted with a scene of confusion. The plane was shaking so violently that it was hard to read the instruments. An alarm was alternating between a chirruping trill and an automated voice: “STALL STALL STALL.” [...] “We completely lost control of the aeroplane, and we don’t understand anything! We tried everything!”

The crew were, in fact, in control of the aeroplane. One simple course of action could have ended the crisis they were facing, and they had not tried it. But David Robert was right on one count: he didn’t understand what was happening.

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