Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Free Market Distributist Budget: State & Local

State finances and local government finances probably each deserve a post of their own, but because my data source handles them both at the same time and because they share their proposed main tax source, the Henry George-style land value tax, I am dealing with them both in the same post.  (This is a followup to my post proposing an ideologically-similar budget for the Federal government.)  

This post is even more abstract than the first, because I am dealing with the statistical average state and city (not even using medians, but arithmetic means!)  The goal of these numbers is to show the potential benefits of fiscal discipline, even at this late hour.  

State and Local Revenue Sources - - annual revenue in dollars per capita (state   |   local):
Property taxes - - 275   |   1099
Motor fuel taxes - - 118   |   4
Alcoholic beverage taxes - - 17   |   2
Tobacco products taxes - - 54   |   2
Corporate income taxes - - 153   |   26
Motor vehicle license taxes - - 64   |   5
Other taxes - - 172   |   74
Highway charges - - 22   |   16
Port facilities charges - - 3   |   9
Parks and recreation charges - - 5   |   24
Sewerage charge - - 2   |   126
Solid waste management charges - - 2   |   47
Other charges - - 56   |   138  

State and Local Expenditures - - annual outlay in dollars per capita (state   |   local):
Libraries - - 2   |   35
Veterans' services - - 3   |   0
Highways - - 294   |   199
Port facilities - - 5   |   
Police protection - - 39   |   262
Fire protection - - 0   |   131
Correction - - 155   |   86
Protective inspection and regulation - - 30   |   18
Natural resources - - 66   |   33
Parks and recreation - - 17   |   114
Sewerage - - 4   |   150
Solid waste management - - 9   |   70
Financial administration - - 71   |   59
Judicial and legal - - 68   |   71
General public buildings - - 12   |   37
Other governmental administration - - 17   |   77
Interest on general debt - - 146   |   189  

State Fiscal Balance - - +5
Local Fiscal Balance - - +28


All spending items in the above are funded at their actual per capita levels circa 2008.  All other spending items I have zeroed out (education, social services and income maintenance, public utilities other than solid waste and sewerage, etc.)  As far as revenues go, many taxes were abolished but I left the total levels for the other taxes alone.  The main exception is property taxes, which I have replaced with land value taxes at the same overall revenue level but with more (20%) going to states (in reality, states collect very little in property taxes but I needed to alter this since the biggest of the abolished taxes, the sales tax, currently funds state programs much more than local).

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Free Market Distributist Budget: Federal

Classically liberal distributists like myself have never had much of a political party, although we have something in common the Single Tax movement.  Recently I have moved away from classical liberalism, with its usual civic-nationalist underpinnings, to a basically ethnopluralist position, but on fiscal policy the "classical liberal" shoe fits well enough.  On a whim, I recently took a look at some US Federal budget data and found that the corporate income tax brings in much more money than I had once thought, and furthermore that the estate and gift taxes bring in much less than I had once thought.  

I like Henry George's justification for his land value tax, i.e., that it's not an individual who gives his land value, it's the surrounding community (which needs fiscal support) that does. But by the same token, an individual does add value to the whole property by building houses or businesses upon it.  Therefore, an efficient and fair tax should be on land alone, exclusive of improvements.  

An analogy struck me: Just as the community gives land its value, government gives corporations their existence.  Thus corporate income taxes have a justification lacked by personal income taxes, estate taxes, and (at other levels of government) sales taxes.  Furthermore, one major objection to the individual income tax is its intrusion into people's personal lives, which can't be directly applied to a tax on a business with multiple owners and a government charter.  Corporate finances must be public to a great degree because of the nature of management in a company in which the managers are not generally owners (and in which many of the owners never even visit corporate premises).  

Then the question: If you abolished failed anti-poverty programs and privatized education and social insurance, could you run the country without personal income taxes, estate taxes, or sales taxes?  (The latter is important for state and local matters, which have a post of their own.)  Notice that I am being less radical than a true single-taxer, or even a "double-taxer" (land value and corporate income only).  I am tentatively accepting the other taxes which have any justification beyond simple revenue (other than wealth redistribution).  Thus I am leaving in place alcohol & tobacco taxes for harm reduction, motor vehicle licensing and fuel taxes for road improvement, and tariffs for protection from foreign competition.  

The verdict:  It's possible, not easy.  (This holds individual Federal income taxes separate to retire the debt; see below.)  Even after abolishing Federal education meddling and Robin Hood "egalitarianism", it took deep cuts in defense spending to get a small surplus (and this is after subtracting out all spending for the global war on terrorism).  It also estimated a 20% increase to the haul from corporate income taxes, which may be possible by including S-Corps and LLCs.  (This is subtracted from the individual income tax in my debt-reduction model, below.)  I left revenue figures for the other Federal taxes alone even though, as a moderate protectionist, I favor replacing quotas with tariffs, a move which should generate some more revenue.  

Federal revenue sources - - annual revenue in dollars per capita:
Customs duties - - 95
Excise taxes - - 221
Corporate income taxes - - 1224
Other revenue sources - - 164
Total - - 1703

Federal spending by department - - annual spending in dollars per capita:
Defense - - 1091
Veterans Affairs - - 128
Homeland Security - - 78
Justice - - 65
Health & Human Services - - 22
Transportation - - 27
Treasury - - 27
Interior - - 24
State - - 11
Energy - - 8
Agriculture - - 7
Labor - - 3
Other On-Budget - - 117
Other Off-Budget - - 88
Total - - 1699  

Federal Balance - - +$5 per capita

I zeroed out the budgets for the global war on terror, the department of education, HUD, and NASA.  The former will be unnecessary as soon as the nations of the West have erected the Iron Veil; the latter three can be completely privatized.

I gave 90% budget cuts to Health and Human Services, State, Energy, Agriculture, and Labor.  These departments are laden with programs which are unnecessary, counterproductive, and sometimes unconstitutional.  I didn't zero them out because they generally have important roles in gathering and analyzing information on things like communicable disease and nuclear proliferation.

I gave 30% budget cuts to Defense and Homeland Security.  We incur a lot of expenses defending other countries, which we can no longer afford to do.  I dislike a lot of what the DHS does, but they do patrol the borders and try to stop illegal immigration, so I figured I would be as easy on them as I am on Defense.  

I gave 30% budget cuts to Transportation, Treasury, Interior, and other programs (on- and off-budget).  I made fairly mild cuts here because these items are very diverse and since the totals are fairly small, I thought I would be generous rather than commit to a lot more research.

I left Justice and Veterans Affairs alone.  In the latter case, it is out of fairness to the soldiers returning from overlong, basically unnecessary wars in Asia.  In the former, it is because I strongly support prison reform, which must cost money, so I figured at least I shouldn't cut that department's budget.   

I have not yet dealt with existing debt and interest payments.  Thus the above numbers reflect an ultra-hypothetical "If we could start afresh" hypothesis.  However, even keeping the above figures we can see that fiscal discipline, though harsh (much harsher than if this program were begun ten years ago), can set things straight given enough time.  My modeling is very crude and assumes no population changes or economic growth (pessimistic assumptions which partially offset the considerable optimism inherent in assuming there is any fiscal discipline in the first place).  I am using total national debt of $13.56 trillion and an effective interest rate of 4%.  

Let us assume no defaults, and the highly un-Georgist individual income tax is temporarily kept in existence at falling rates only for debt reduction, on the condition that the rest of the budget (above) is in balance or surplus.  (FICA payroll taxes are still zeroed, as is spending for Medicare and Social Security.  State and local income taxes are zeroed as well as all sales taxes.)  

For this model I am taking into account the expanded (S-Corps and LLCs too) corporate income tax on a dollar-for-dollar basis.  That is, since my 20% increase in corporate income tax revenue expanded its haul from $1020 per capita to 1224, I have reduced my total individual income tax haul by $204 per capita.  The debt reduction rule is, 4% of the remaining debt must be retired each year until income taxes are cut at least in half, after which point taxes remain constant until the debt is gone.   

Income tax revenues are immediately cut 9%.  After that they fall at about 3% annually for the first decade, and fall at about 2% thereafter until year 16.  From year 16 until year 33, income taxes remain at 50% of their present values.  Thirty-three years after the unblinking adoption of fiscal discipline, the debt and the individual income taxes go away.