Taxes: Warren's Weird Wisdom


This is an election year, and presidential candidates are scrambling around looking for—pardon the expression—new ideas. Well, search no more, guys. Your quest is over. Here's the beef.

Anyone who truly wants to patch up the tax system is welcome to wander through Warren's World of Weird Wisdom—a collection of goodies I've been saving up just for you.

First, let's change the date for filing tax returns. It doesn't have to be in April, because the feds collect our taxes all through the year anyway. Why not file the day after election day? Why should elections continue to be held six months later, after you've had a "cooling off' period? Think about it. You know how crazy mad you get when you're working your way through the annual maze of tax forms. And you know what you think of your government—and politicians—on the day you mail in your return. Wouldn't you love to cast your votes the very next day? And wouldn't this one reform improve the nature of political debate?

Then, let's put an end to the journalists' myth that "the American people" demand all the "services" that the government provides. It's certainly true that some people demand services, but they're not necessarily the same ones who have to pay all the bills. It shouldn't be too difficult to find out what "the people" really want.

I suggest that a questionnaire be made part of the tax return. Then we could determine, for each category of taxpayer, exactly what such people truly think. For example, the questionnaire could ask: Is government spending: (a) too high; (b) too low; or (c) just right? If it's too high, where would you like to see it cut: (a) defense; (b) social programs; or (c) business regulation?

This would give our lawmakers some much-needed guidance. It would (I think) rapidly become obvious that those who pay taxes aren't the same people who are demanding more welfare spending.

While we're on the subject of welfare, why not strike recipients from the voting rolls? If you've been on welfare during, say, the last 90 days, you can't vote. Period.

While we're at it, I'd like to strike all bureaucrats from the voting rolls, too. Not the military, because I think they're necessary. Just the tenured civil service. They live off our taxes and control our lives, which ought to be enough for them. There's no reason to let such deranged creatures elect our lawmakers, too.

And here's another of my favorites: Let's link those lawmakers' paychecks to the income tax system—inversely. The lower the tax rates, the higher their compensation, and vice versa. If the income tax is ever reduced to zero, we should pay them a princely salary. Then (and only then) they'll have earned it. Needless to say, salary adjustments should also be made for inflation. If Congress depreciates the currency, their compensation should be correspondingly reduced (not increased, as is done now).

But I'm not done with Congress. Not only should lawmakers be penalized for taxes and inflation, they should be given incentives to reduce spending. Let's use the most powerful of inducements—the profit motive. Members of Congress should get annual bonuses for year-to-year nondefense spending cuts. I'm willing to be generous here—give them 10 percent of everything they save. If they cut $100 billion, then they could whack up $10 billion among themselves. Let them get filthy rich! It's worth it.

But wait a minute. What if the president embraced my program, but Congress didn't go along? No problem. The pardon power is one of the great, unused weapons in the arsenal of the presidency. If I were president (fat chance!) I would—each day—pardon all income tax evaders. If that won't shrink the government, nothing can.

Does that exhaust my stock of tax reform ideas? No. I've been saving the best for last.

If all else fails, there's the ancient doctrine of secession. You think I'm kidding, don't you? I'm not. Why shouldn't a state be free to withdraw from the Union? I know, I know—it's been tried before and it failed, so why bring it up again?

Why not? Don't we condemn Moscow for invading Hungary and Czechoslovakia? And for crushing the Solidarity movement in Poland? Why should Washington suppress the desire of our own states to be free from central government oppression?

I'm serious, folks. I'd like to see the Constitution amended to allow a state to secede. Probably, the withdrawing state should get the consent of its contiguous neighbors, to avoid unsightly holes in the map. It wouldn't do if, say, New Hampshire alone pulled out. But New Hampshire and Maine together—why not?

"Oh no," you cry. "That would destroy our country!" Not really. If the central government ceased to be an instrument of tyranny, no state would want to leave.

If even one of these ideas becomes a reality, our lives would be radically changed—for the better.

Warren Salomon is an attorney and tax specialist in Miami.