Deficit Commmission working groups

by Linda Beale
crossposted at Ataxingmatter

Deficit Commmission working groups–tax group, but no practicing or academic tax lawyer

One of the strange results of treatment of economists as central policymakers over the last four decades or so of the “Washington Consensus” and the dominance of Chicago School freshwater economists has been the distortion of policy making on taxes to favor economic arguments over fairness and statutory construction that results in a coherent Code. You’d think that people would want a range of perspectives from tax academics and practitioners. Many tax academics are in the “economic efficiency is the only measuring stick that matters for tax policy” camp, but many aren’t. (moi, for example.) Including those broader perspectives might bring us more quickly to good tax policies and save us the waste of time from focussing solely on efficiency and growth arguments. (There’s a lot of talk, for example, among tax efficiency academics about “progressive consumption taxes”, yet we all realize that it is unlikely that an efficient consumption tax will be enacted (it requires taxing borrowings, for example) and even more improbable that any consumption tax enacted would be progressive at the rates necessary to achieve real progressivity. We’d be better off discussing how to improve the income tax to make it fairer and raise more revenues.)

Obama’s deficit commission appears to be following the trend of treating economists and businessmen (CEOs) and even union leaders as more appropriate to have input on tax issues than tax experts. The tax working group of the deficit commission includes, according to BNA Daily Tax Realtime (May 4,2010): “Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Dave Cote, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Ann Fudge, and Andy Stern. Cote is president and CEO of manufacturer Honeywell, Fudge is the former chairman and CEO of Young and Rubicam Brands, and Stern is president of the Service Employees International Union.” BNA

Of course, some of those politicians, like Baucus, serve on the tax writing committees (Finance in the Senate, and Ways and Means in the House). But still, it would be nice to see a progressive tax academic invited to serve on this group…..