Archive for the ‘Government gone wild’ Category

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patents + taxes = insanity squared

June 1, 2009

Yes, over sixty patents have been issued for “tax planning methods.”  You discover (or contrive?) a loophole, then patent its use. Subsequent taxpayers (or tax avoiders) who might happen on the same idea are obligated to contact you and arrange to license your innovation.  This is not what the Framers had in mind when they empowered Congress

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

Cong. Rick Boucher introduced a bill a couple of years ago to limit the benefits patent holders could obtain for such patents (summarized here(doc) with full text here(pdf)).   A message today from Vaughn Henry implies that this has been reintroduced.

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Assessor ignores assessment policy

April 23, 2009

Last week, the Tribune published Cook County Assessor James Houlihan’s fiscal reform proposal.  He wants to restructure the state sales tax and the state income tax, claiming that this would not only balance the state budget but also provide more funds to localities, theoretically allowing them to reduce real estate taxes.

But Mr. Assessor, how about the assessment and extension of real estate taxes.  You know, the stuff you do?  Can’t you improve that?  Maybe you could start by assessing vacant land properly?  And making sure that land value is fully included in all assessments?  That’s not going to discourage any economic activity.

Then maybe we could ask the solons of the Cook County Board to change the property classification system, assessing improvements at only 40% of the ratio applied to land value? They could do this under existing law. Maybe they could even exempt improvements entirely?  And, while we’re asking the Illinois General Assembly to reform things, why not eliminate the sales and income taxes, by resurrecting the state sales tax?

Regular readers of this blog, and Henry George School students, know why this is a good idea.  Evidently Assessor Houlihan doesn’t want us to even think about it.

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Earmarks

April 18, 2009

Wikipedia (right now) defines “earmark” as

a congressional provision that directs approved funds to be spent on specific projects or that directs specific exemptions from taxes or mandated fees.

On the face of it, I don’t see that as such a bad thing.  If my Congressbeing has determined that the national interest requires a particular expenditure, it seems reasonable that she might want to make sure that a budget or appropriation item really will be used for that purpose.

The problem, of course, has been that earmarks are obscure, and invariably are for local projects in which the Federal government has no legitimate role.  Now, the earmarks are being disclosed, at least by House members, and our friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense have compiled a list. Not of earmarks, but of URL’s where earmarks can be found.

I figured they might be bad, and they are.  “My” Congressbeing, for instance, has a list of mainly municipal and nonprofit projects, at least some of which are economically justified and therefore should be funded out of the savings or other benefits which they produce. There  are also a few government contractors being taken care of, and a couple of CTA projects.  Because the latter is something I know a little bit about, I can say that the descriptions are quite deceptive, greatly exaggerating the result (e.g. “extension of the Yellow Line”) which will be obtained by a relatively modest ($1 million) expenditure.

And that list is hardly the worst.