Posts Tagged ‘taxes’

Financing Good Deeds

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Here is the question. How can we as a society in the United States maximize the good things we are able to do with our wealth? One of course starts to think about the efficiency of public vs. private support of good deeds, but let’s set the efficiency issue aside for now and just deal with the main question: how can we maximize good deed creation? That is, how many good deeds can we afford?

I would propose that somewhere there is a mathematical response to this question. That is, I believe if we all create wealth without regard to worthy causes, that would not maximize the good things we are able to do. But the converse is also true – i.e., if we use all our wealth to do good deeds we will soon find we have no wealth, and realize that investment of our wealth is necessary to further grow this wealth and thus our ability to do more good things. The optimum point lies somewhere in the middle.

This presupposes a graph, a curve, with wealth creation on the x axis and good deeds on the y axis.

Forgive the standard bell-type curve. We don’t really know what the curve would look like, because no one has yet done the work. But isn’t this what our present day political discussion is all about? Some people think a lot more wealth can be taken out of the economy and used for purposes that do not create further wealth. Others think we are near that inflection point where taking more dollars out of investment and using them for consumption – i.e., doing good deeds – will push us over the top, like a roller coaster, and start us on the downward path toward less wealth and thus less ability to do good things.

In our society today it is unfashionable to do math. But maybe we need to do these calculations.

Government Spending

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Federal government spending is of necessity limited by the amount of economic growth in the country.

to The Editor of the Seattle Times. Fixing the Federal deficit.

Saturday, November 26th, 2011

Your Nov 25th editorial says “the solution to multi-trillion dollar [federal] deficits has to be a mix of revenue and spending cuts . . .” Like most people, it appears you do not do math. Here it is, briefly. These numbers are from the N Y Post article of August 28, 2011. The President wants a 13% tax increase (from 35 to 39.5%) on rich people. In 2009 people reporting over $1 million in taxable income paid $200 million in taxes. Static analysis computes a 13% increase as bringing in $26 million – a bit over $2 billion per month. From other sources I believe the same analysis of incomes over $250,000 brings in some $6 billion per month. The deficit in August was $160 billion. Average for the year is expected to be roughly $130 billion per month.

So let’s see. Will $6 billion be an important part of reducing a monthly deficit of $130 billion? That doesn’t even pass the smirk test. But here is the important part. In a 15 trillion economy ($15 billion times a thousand), even a small decrease in economic activity arising from this tax increase could have much greater impact than the $6 bil a month collected and recycled by the government.

So Obama’s tax increase will have little effect on deficit reduction, but a potentially significant impact on GDP if it motivates wealth to sit on the sidelines. Of course the entire analysis assumes that you understand government recycles money but does not create jobs. If you on the other side of that assertion, then you have a lot more math to do.

Jim Hirshfield

The Present Debt Crisis

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

When I was in business, I used to have a cartoon I would post in the office from time to time. It showed an anguished face, literally pulling his hair out, and was captioned “Oh no, you did just what I told you to do”. The point, of course, was the folly of putting together a solution before defining the problem.

In today’s government debt “crisis”, the parties seem to suffer from the same affliction. What problem is this “crisis” supposed to solve? The media says we are trying to avoid default, but that is silly. We should all understand that it would be difficult to default on existing debt unless done so willfully. Government commitments could not be met, but the debt part of it is fairly easy. So what is going on?

Simply put, the problem to be solved is “What portion of GDP should the federal government spend?”. The President seems to want 25%, the House Republicans 18%. Historic tax income has broadly been in the 18 to 19% of GDP range. So how do you spend 25%? Raise more tax revenue. The President’s prescription for this is to tax “wealthy” people at a higher rate, and thus bring an increased percent of GDP into federal coffers. The opposition says that this will not raise more revenues, as people will avoid paying more tax at the cost of economic activity and jobs. Their argument is that if economic activity slows due to rate increases tax revenues will go down, not up. The President says this is not the case, that economic activity will continue regardless of changes in the tax rate.

So draw your own conclusions. But do so in the context of the actual problem being discussed – not all the silliness you see on TV and in the papers these days. What portion of GDP should the federal government spend?

Jim Hirshfield