Election 2012

NPR's Planet Money Endorses Gary Johnson for President

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NPR endorsed?

Not exactly, but more closely than one might expect. The producers of Planet Money are running a terrific series in which they asked a panel of economists whose views span the political spectrum what policies they think the perfect presidential candidate should adopt. It turns out that a lot of them echo the policy proposals of Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson. So what did Planet Money's panel of five economists agree on:

One: Eliminate the mortgage tax deduction, which lets homeowners deduct the interest they pay on their mortgages. Gone. After all, big houses get bigger tax breaks, driving up prices for everyone. Why distort the housing market and subsidize people buying expensive houses?

Two: End the tax deduction companies get for providing health-care to employees. Neither employees nor employers pay taxes on workplace health insurance benefits. That encourages fancier insurance coverage, driving up usage and, therefore, health costs overall. Eliminating the deduction will drive up costs for people with workplace healthcare, but makes the health-care market fairer.

Three: Eliminate the corporate income tax. Completely. If companies reinvest the money into their businesses, that's good. Don't tax companies in an effort to tax rich people.

Four: Eliminate all income and payroll taxes. All of them. For everyone. Taxes discourage whatever you're taxing, but we like income, so why tax it? Payroll taxes discourage creating jobs. Not such a good idea. Instead, impose a consumption tax, designed to be progressive to protect lower-income households.

Five: Tax carbon emissions. Yes, that means higher gasoline prices. It's a kind of consumption tax, and can be structured to make sure it doesn't disproportionately harm lower-income Americans. More, it's taxing something that's bad, which gives people an incentive to stop polluting.

Six: Legalize marijuana. Stop spending so much trying to put pot users and dealers in jail — it costs a lot of money to catch them, prosecute them, and then put them up in jail. Criminalizing drugs also drives drug prices up, making gang leaders rich.

All right, Johnson doesn't endorse all of these proposals, but he certainly does favor eliminating the corporate and individual income taxes and the payroll tax. As part of the plan to flatten taxes for everybody it could make sense to get rid of the health insurance and mortgage interest deductions. Johnson is against a carbon tax (and cap-and-trade), but such a tax could again be part of the overall tax reform package that switches to consumption taxes from the current recondite system of income taxes. In fact, a savvy politician who wants to rein in the size of government might favor a non-revenue-neutral carbon tax that takes in less revenue than the income taxes being replaced. And finally, all five economists endorse Johnson's view that the Drug War is a complete travesty.

For background, go here and here for some criticisms of Johnson's Fair Tax proposal.

NEXT: Obama and Romney Attend Al Smith Dinner: "Obama Embraced By Catholics, Romney Dines With Rich People"

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  1. Holy fuck it’s over

    1. By that do you mean that since the liberal media actually recognizes our tax system is un-reformable, we must be down the rabbit hole already and totally screwed?

    2. That’s what I got out of it too, Scruffster. Granted Planet Money and Marketplace are the red-headed stepchildren of NPR news, but for them to treat libertarian ideas seriously is a huge breakthrough.

      1. Oh, the Planet Money team, since they talk to economists rather than politicians and really try to understand this stuff, are far from the NPR mainstream. Their reports are wonderful and every one of them has got to make some listener out there start thinking twice about his statist intuitions.

        But I do wish Planet Money would try to work inside NPR too. Every month like clockwork I have to hear whether the trade deficit is up or down and how that’s bad or good as though it’s important at all. Please, Planet Money, talk to the economic news editor!

  2. I, too, would like to announce my endorsement of Gary Johnson.

  3. Erect Gary’s Johnson!

    1. Draw that curtain and twiddle that knob!

  4. Bailey, if you run for President on that platform you have my vote. I hate the stupid plank 5 but could live with it for the perfection of the rest.

    1. I second this, only I would have capitalized and spelled thusly; STOOPID plank 5.

    2. Unfortunately, we’re more likely to only get #5 than to get all six.

    3. Im not a big fan of plank 4 either, Im not sure a consumption tax is better than an income tax.

      Wait, yes, I am, its better, but still not the best.

      Plank 3 is a hard sell, but I know how to make it easier…make C corps pass thru entities. So, as long as we still have the income tax, that corporate income is still taxed, just at the rate of the individual owners. It also ends double taxation without the “I didnt collect it yet” loophole.

      THEN, you go after the income tax using Plank 4.

      1. Im not a big fan of plank 4 either, Im not sure a consumption tax is better than an income tax.

        It is, by a libertarian mile.

        The government has no business knowing how I make my money, and moreso, they have no business trying to define “income”.

        If my neighbor gives me a car, the government defines that as “income”. If my neighbor gives me use of a car, that could be defined as “income”.

        The government needs tax revenue to function. So give them a small percentage of each cash transaction. Then quit digging into my bank accounts to see if I deposited an “unusual amount” of money this week.

        Income taxes INVITE government tyranny. Consumption taxes avoid it.

  5. Gary Johnson’s strong fiscal responsibility no doubt helped him receive this honor. While he was out working hard on the campaign trail, his trusted campaign manager was busily misappropriating campaign funds so that as the election comes to it’s conclusion, we had no TV commericals as promised, instead thousands of palm cards and yard signs (which you have to pay for) Seems like the financial house needed to be in better order at the Johnson camp.

      1. Looks like nope?

  6. Tax carbon emissions.

    After going on about how taxes create distortions which are economically harmful, they gronk out this piece of greeny crap? Jeebus on stilts.

    Taxing carbon emissions is an energy tax. Are they saying driving up the cost of energy and discouraging energy consumption is good for the economy? Saying its a pollution tax is just obfuscation: we have a hydrocarbon energy economy (for good reasons), and any combustion of hydrocarbons releases CO2. Carbon tax = energy tax.

    Or do they just want to introduce massive distortions into one of the most fundamental economic markets?

    1. Well look at the economists. Russ Roberts was outnumbered.

    2. It is the NPR crowd RC. They decry using taxation as tool for social/economic enginnering but they cant resist using it for their own pet issues.

      1. At least they agree that taxing something consistently harms the production of whatever you’re taxing. That’s a big step. If we could get that meme into the wild, we’d be about 1/2 step closer to starting to think about maybe moving in the general direction of somewhere that might be libertopia if you squint real hard.

        1. Then they turn around and suggest taxing consumption.

          1. We must tax something, rob! Government programs aren’t going to pay for themselves, because of which, fee for service is never going to work.

    3. The Tax on carbon pretty much goes in the complete opposite direction of just about everything else on the list.

      “Get rid of taxes! Except add this one tax that will benefit no one, and will artificially inflate the price of gas and wreck consumer equity overnight.”

      1. Well, you have to tax something. I don’t think taxing fuel is ideal, but it is fairly broad based and not the worst.

        I’m beginning to think that some sort of sales/consumption/transaction tax would be the best option as it does the most to preserve anonymity and privacy. Income tax is clearly the worst for that.

  7. I have serious (SERIOUS!) reservations about the so-called Fair Tax, but a broadly based consumption tax is a unobjectionable.

    And again, I will shill for my universally detested 2% gross receipts tax, which in practice would be indistinguishable from a consumption tax.

    I don’t like the “carbon tax” formulation, but I have no particular objection to raising fuel taxes to a level which realistically funds the highway infrastructure (not windmills, solar cells, choochoos, or any other diversions).

    Legalizing Marijuana is good, but doesn’t go nearly far enough; what we need is a massive reform directed toward reduction of actual harm instead of Puritannical behavior control.

    1. If we are gonna shill, how about a 6% Single Land Tax instead.

      1. How about redistributing all proceeds from land tax, but also instituting a citizenship tax and use taxes where they make sense?

    2. I’m ok with the Fair Tax as long as the income tax is concurrently abolished, and the 16th Amendment repealed.

      1. In the land of the penaltax and the broad-based Commerce Clause, the 16th amendment is irrelevant. Legislation would be considered all that was needed to implement an income tax again. The SCOTUS decision upholding it would be 6-3 (Alito, Thomas, Scalia against).

        Sort of like how we can prohibit intoxicants without pesky details like the 18th amendment anymore.

  8. asked a panel of economists whose views span the political spectrum what policies they think the perfect presidential candidate should adopt. It turns out that a lot of them echo the policy proposals of Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson

    Gary Johnson should adopt the popular “[All/Most/Virtually all] Economists agree” phrasing. He has the best chance of being truthful with it.

    1. There is only one economist, and his name is Krugnuts.

  9. Denver Post excretes delusional endorsement editorial for Obama…

    http://www.denverpost.com/opin…..-president

    1. This was pretty much a given.

  10. I can only endorse 4 if it comes with a repeal of the 16th Amendment. Otherwise, we’re just fucking ourselves later.

    1. Agreed, but I assume that is part of any suggestion of 4.

      1. That’s how they’ll get you.

  11. HOW ARE THESE ECONOMISTS GOING TO PAY FOR ALL THESE TAX CUTS?

    1. You really are trying to give me a coronary this morning, aren’t you? That right there is the quickest way to do it, FoE.

      1. Next time it gets caps and bolded.

    2. I know it. Not taking money from people is expensive.

  12. If you get rid of income tax, what’s the point of getting rid of mortgage deductions?

    1. In that scenario, the realtors and the bankers would coerce there bought and paid for congresscritters to create a rebate program, whereby whatever mortgage interest you paid could be claimed back from the government.

  13. Here’s another of my pet fee-for-service proposals: Port Fees.

    A recurring theme amongst the anti-petro mob is the “subsidy” provided by this nation’s navy, and its policing of the high seas. This subsidy, if that’s what it is, applies equally to all international shipping (including the airborne variety), a nominal fee based on dollar value of shipments entering and leaving U S territory would recoup some of this.

    1. Somalian Air Pirates, FTW!

  14. More, it’s taxing something that’s bad, which gives people an incentive to stop polluting.

    The “something” is efficient energy usage, particularly in transportation in this context. People don’t burn gasoline for the purposes of pollution; they burn it to get around. Clarifying means and ends is supposed to be a primary skill for an economist.

    1. Speak for yourself, MJ, I sometimes burn gasoline just to watch the lovely, lovely carbon soot waft into the sky before settling on the upturned faces of street urchins.

    2. True, but the burning of those fuels promotes a neighborhood effect on the rest of us.

  15. how about a 6% Single Land Tax

    I still don’t get it.

    Why not tax air, or sunlight?

    1. That would be UNFAIR(tm). Also, poor people…

      /liberal

    2. If the government granted deeds to air and sunlight, okay.

      1. It’s important to remember that the Georgist single tax is on the value of unimproved land based on the fact that the owner has done nothing to add to the value of the land itself.

        Any value you create on the land by making physical improvements on it is your own and is not subject to taxation.

        My problem with Georgism is that the economic rent on land, while technically something easily defined in the marketplace, is something I can see all sorts of political mischief being made around.

        1. It’s important to remember that the Georgist single tax is on the value of unimproved land based on the fact that the owner has done nothing to add to the value of the land itself.

          Of course. Its both important to remember and assumed by the name “land tax” not “property tax”.

          My problem with Georgism is that the economic rent on land, while technically something easily defined in the marketplace, is something I can see all sorts of political mischief being made around.

          I can think of no form of taxation for which that isnt true.

  16. OT: Something Tony posted last night got me thinking about the outrage here on the subject of Fast + Furious. The more radical libertarians here seem to think the government shouldn’t treat gun purchases any different from toilet paper purchases and support open borders. So how do any of them object to allowing guns to be straw-purchased and taken across the border to Mexico, any more than you’d object to someone buying TP for a Mexican drug lord and delivering it to Mexico?

    For me, and I imagine for other less radical libertarians, it’s clear why we’re pissed: we’re against straw purchases and favor border controls.

    1. Just because you’re against gun control and think that people should have freedom of movement doesn’t mean you think the government should be directing firearms to foreign drug cartels

    2. Well, we also believe that government agents shouldn’t be able to violate their own laws and force private companies to make illegal sales. That might be part of it. Maybe. The fact that it was part of some Byzantine scheme with no hope of possibly succeeding, and the guns ended up in the hands of people who murdered Federal agents just proved that our cynicism in government competence is justified.

  17. Gary Johnson’s strong fiscal responsibility no doubt helped him receive this honor.

    Trouble is, as Mr Bailey notes, NPR didn’t actually endorse Gary Johnson. They ruminated on a “fake candidate.”

    In response to the question of what voters who liked neither Romney nor Obama, the Morning Edition producers, instead of running a piece about actual third party candidates, assembled a gaggle of economists to fabricate a hypothetical “third party candidate” based on a consensus of the best economic ideas.

    A few months ago on another NPR show there was an interviesw with some guy who had written a book(not the one by Gillespie and Welch) about a trend towards voters who were neither Red or Blue. They were absolutely silent about third party candidates, event though several were declared.

    It’s almost like NPR (and the rest of the media, I guess) would rather die than to give any candidate but the Big Two any kind of coverage.

    1. Alternately, perhaps they’re trying to avoid shilling for any presidential candidate so went through the elaborate ruse of constructing a fake Johnson.

      1. They don’t seem to have any worries that their round the clock coverage of MR and BO might be seen as shilling for any presidential candidate.

    2. They did actually have a piece about Johnson on this morning. Not very long, but it was something. I’m pretty sure I have heard more about Johnson this year on NPR than about whoever the Green candidate is.

      1. The local NPR station here is having one of their begathons this week so I’m changing stations a lot.

        I missed anything on Gary Johnson but I heard the “fake candidate” piece (twice).

  18. So how do any of them object to allowing guns to be straw-purchased and taken across the border to Mexico, any more than you’d object to someone buying TP for a Mexican drug lord and delivering it to Mexico?

    If they were trying to make toilet paper harder to get, based on the fact that Messikin Drooogsterz had it, I’d be pissed.

  19. the Morning Edition producers, instead of running a piece about actual third party candidates, assembled a gaggle of economists to fabricate a hypothetical “third party candidate”

    I did not RTFA; was the “hypothetical” candidate explicitly described as a third party guy, or merely as an “ideal” candidate from (it goes without saying) one of the two legitimate parties?

    1. (From memory after LTFA) the candidate was the economists’ ideal; no partisan affiliation was mentioned.

      Today’s article was also a good exposition of political consultants. My big take-away – the teams treat the electorate as uninformed and easily led; rational voters don’t figure into their plans.

      1. And, talking to just about any Obama supporter, it seems to work. Probably true of Romney supporters as well, I would think, but I really don’t run into many who support him for any reason other than his non-Obamaness.

    2. Tonio pretty much has it.

      My takeaway was that they were creating a candidate who represented the best economic ideas. They all seemed to agree that neither major party candidate had all the right answers.

  20. Wouldn’t point four make points one and two redundant? How can you have a deduction on a tax that no longer exists?

    1. I think that has something to do with the fact that they were getting ideas from several different economists.

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