"I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land." Ezekiel 22:30

Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Blockbuster Tax Plan to Save the Country

What follows is a piece written in May, shortly after the Obama Administration issued a directive to the nation's public schools regarding "inclusive" bathroom policies. It is not a thoroughly detailed article, at least in terms of specific policy proposals, but it should spark some conversation and discussions, and hopefully I will be able to get back around to writing about this topic of tax policy in the future.

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Ever watch a terrible movie or series that started out great but became an obvious train wreck right near the end? If the history of the United States was a movie series, we would probably now be on the sequel that does its best to ruin the earlier installments with a lame script, flat jokes, and no point. The latest episode in the on-going saga of federal government overreach now centers on who has a right to certain bathrooms. It’s like the sequel that never should have been (ahem, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides).

Step back and think about this: The United States of America, a nation founded on some of the highest ideals of human freedom imaginable – ideals which were nearly unthinkable at the time - by some of the most enlightened men of their era, which went on to survive civil war, multiple economic collapses, invasion and attacks by foreign and domestic enemies, to win two world wars because of the bravery of an entire generation, to stare down the barrel at nuclear war without a flinch, and to defeat the Soviet Union, is now grappling with the oppressive notion that one should take care of one’s “business” in the restroom that corresponds with one’s sexual identity.

If past performance is an indicator of future results, I would reckon a guess that our fair nation would vanquish said enemy and ensure bathroom equality for all! Except that I’m writing this after the fact, so we know how this turns out.

Seriously, George Lucas couldn’t have written a more boring script with better original material (okay, okay, Peter Jackson might take issue with that).

The point is that our once great country has now stooped to the level where the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military in the world is giving directives on bathroom policy to our nation’s schools.

Aside from the obvious moral, philosophical, and religious issues with this new edict (the importance of which I cannot overstate), it violates two of the most fundamental tenets of what makes America so unique: subsidiarity and federalism.

Without relying on a dictionary to define these terms, let’s simply say that subsidiarity is the principle that people nearer to a problem should be the ones dealing with it. Federalism is a system of government that attempts to put this principle into practice. In other words: local people, local problems, local solutions.

Taking a page from Catholic social doctrine, American conservatives and the broadly defined political “Right” have made federalism and subsidiarity the bedrock of their policy proposals for generations. Many on the Right are especially fond of saying issues like abortion and marriage should be “state” issues, as opposed to “national” issues decided by the Supreme Court. On the other hand, liberals and the “Left” have shown utter contempt towards federalism and subsidiarity, first during the Wilson administration, then more forcibly through FDR’s New Deal. Instead of allowing local people to solve their own issues, they prefer to foist their radical, ideologically-based “solutions” upon Americans across the country, regardless of whether or not a problem actually exists. Liberalism has unceremoniously discarded the concept of solidarity.

This is why we now face a situation where our federal government is telling the roughly 98,000 public schools across this country how they should set an “inclusive” bathroom policy to accommodate the estimated less than one-third of one percent of the population who is transgendered.

How can this happen? Two words: Moo. Lah.

Any government has essentially two methods for imposing the rule of law: force and funds. One relies on the barrel of a gun, the other on a checkbook. Money may not actually be the thing that makes the world go ‘round, but it pays the people who do. When it comes to government programs and directives, money talks and it’s a lot nicer than the barrel of a gun.

The ability to withhold funds is how the federal government can coerce thousands of schools into submitting to its warped ideology.

It’s a broken system and it’s a problem for federalism.

If conservatives are serious about restoring federalism and subsidiarity to our system of governance and the nation itself, then we need to get serious about our broken tax system. All the most prominent tax proposals from leaders like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and even Herman Cain (remember the 9-9-9 plan?) fundamentally misdiagnose the problem because they all maintain the status quo of the federal government as direct collector of taxes and wealth redistributor. We pay our taxes, they spend the money thousands of miles away. In this way the government is allowed to continue strong-arming state and local governments into adopting policies against the will of local citizens. Is that what we really want? Is that at all what the founders envisioned?

What we need is a system that eliminates the direct taxation of individuals by the federal government and replaces it with a taxation of the states based on a formula of state population, state GDP, and other economic factors. Think of it like a membership fee for states to be part of the Union. States could determine the method, or methods, of taxation that work best for them in order to fund state programs and pay their “fee” to the federal government. Welfare programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security would be operated solely at the discretion of the individual states to the degree and in the manner they choose. The federal government would be strictly limited, by law, to operating necessary services such as national defense and the regulation of interstate commerce, including enforcing uniformity and standards in production (yes, this would include enforcement of child labor laws for all you liberals wondering).

Paul David Miller recently made the case at The Federalist that it’s time to resurrect the Federalist Party. “The central political issue of our generation is the assault on human dignity and self-government by the ‘progressive’ left and the Trumpist right,” he says, then later follows with some rhetorical questions:
What if, instead, we stopped looking to the federal government to engineer our national culture? Our nation is big, broad, and wonderfully diverse. Why in the world should we all have a single education policy? Why not let lower levels of government make their own social policy?
If it can be done with social and education policies, why not our tax policies? Why do conservatives freely speak of abortion and marriage as issues to be dealt with at the state level but not taxation? A complete overhaul and localization of our tax system would unleash ingenuity and creativity like never before because of the unprecedented competition between the states.

To effectively make a Federalist Party vision a reality, not only would we need a new party, we need a new tax system. If a new Federalist Party does begin, one of the foundational aspects of the new party’s platform ought to be a complete overhaul of our tax system similar to what is outlined above. Such a position would radically differentiate it from the Republicans and Democrats. Sure, more research would need to be done, and it would need to be sold to the American people. The millions of federal employees, bureaucrats, and the special interests who leech off our broken, bloated federal government will resist because many of them would likely lose their jobs. Laws would need to be changed and the Constitution may even have to be amended. It will be a difficult task accomplishing it all, but one worth doing when our freedom is at stake.

Just like any movie script, laws sometimes need to be revised to produce a better final product. Even though we are in the midst of a terrible sequel, we know our original material of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is second-to-none. We’ve had a few mistakes along the way, but it’s not too late to change things. If we’ve learned anything from Hollywood, it’s to keep trying until you get it right, because you never know when you’re sitting on the next blockbuster.

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