iOS app Android app

Joseph J. Thorndike
GET UPDATES FROM Joseph J. Thorndike

Entries by Joseph J. Thorndike

Can Debt Ceiling Debates Be Useful? History Says Maybe.

(1) Comments | Posted August 28, 2013 | 4:56 PM

Are threats to oppose a debt ceiling increase ever defensible? More specifically, can they ever be justified as a form of leverage--as a tool to force politicians to make difficult but necessary decisions?

Republicans seem to think so. On Monday, the Treasury predicted that the nation would hit the...

Read Post

Wealth Taxes to Cure Inequality? How About Tax Reform Instead.

(2) Comments | Posted July 24, 2013 | 7:44 AM

What are the prospects for a new federal tax on wealth? Pretty good, if you think surging inequality will trigger a populist revolt. But not so good if you think history has anything to teach us.

According to some observers, a wealth tax is just around the corner. "If you'd...

Read Post

Republicans Want to Slash the IRS Budget ― But You'll Pay the Price

(4) Comments | Posted July 10, 2013 | 8:58 AM

Nice to see that House Republicans are staying true to form. Faced with the prospect of actually governing, they've once again chosen to pander and pose instead. Unfortunately, taxpayers are going to pay the price for this predictability.

Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee released a bill that would cut funding...

Read Post

It's Time to Stop Talking About Tax Reform

(1) Comments | Posted June 11, 2013 | 4:55 PM

Enough already: it's time to stop talking about tax reform. Not about necessary and useful changes to the tax code - by all means, let's talk about them. But let's do away with anodyne invocations of "tax reform" as a useful shorthand for this debate. The phrase probably meant something...

Read Post

A Lost Age of Fiscal Heroes? Not So Much.

(5) Comments | Posted May 10, 2013 | 8:48 AM

On May 19, the federal government will reach its statutory debt limit. To keep the wheels turning, the Treasury will then deploy a variety of "extraordinary measures" that have become really quite ordinary in recent years. At which point - probably in the fall sometime -- lawmakers will...

Read Post

When Tax Reform Means Soaking the Rich

(54) Comments | Posted May 7, 2013 | 4:58 PM

Tax reform has evolved into one of the emptier platitudes of U.S. politics. Politicians support "tax reform" in the same way that they support "a strong national defense," "fiscal responsibility," and "pro-growth economic policies." It's a brave statement in search of a challenge. Is anyone ever against tax reform?


Read Post

How Democrats Will Destroy Progressive Government

(172) Comments | Posted April 11, 2013 | 9:56 AM

As Americans rush to file their tax returns, there's no better time to reflect on how long we've been doing this. Monday will mark our 100th year of struggling with our tax forms and rushing them to the post office in time for a midnight deadline.


Read Post

Hate Filing Your Tax Return? Good

(1) Comments | Posted April 3, 2013 | 8:24 AM

Is there anything good about filing a tax return? For most of us, of course, it's a necessary ritual if we hope to stay on the right side of the law. And it certainly keeps the wheels turning for the federal government.

But is there another, more high-minded value to...

Read Post

It's Not Too Late for a War Tax

(82) Comments | Posted March 19, 2013 | 4:39 PM

In case you needed another reason to support a special war tax, try this on for size: The United States is still paying veterans' benefits to the children of Civil War soldiers. According to the Associated Press, two survivors are each receiving $876 dollars a year.


Read Post

The Income Tax is Not Turning 100 -- Yet

(6) Comments | Posted February 25, 2013 | 2:33 PM

Today is not the centennial of the income tax. If you're chomping at the bit to celebrate - and you're determined to ignore the Civil War version of the tax passed in 1862 - then you still have some waiting to do.

Exactly 100 years ago, Secretary...

Read Post

The Income Tax Is Inquisitorial -- Get Over It

(0) Comments | Posted January 30, 2013 | 9:31 AM

Apparently, the Italians have found a way to make their unpopular income tax even more unpopular. In the face of rampant cheating, they've adopted a new enforcement technique. Now, instead of just pawing through paychecks, bank statements and the like, officials will also scrutinize spending habits. Living beyond...

Read Post

Peggy Noonan and the Beleaguered 1 Percent

(255) Comments | Posted January 11, 2013 | 3:52 PM

Peggy Noonan, former Reagan speechwriter and current Wall Street Journal columnist, thinks Republicans need to step up their game. Actually, her preferred metaphor has something to do with "pirate time," which presumably implies political derring-do and all that.

Ultimately, however, what Noonan's really urging is a fundamental rethinking of the...

Read Post

Is There a Real Consensus on Tax Reform?

(5) Comments | Posted November 19, 2012 | 12:48 PM

Is tax reform simple? In an article for the Wall Street Journal, Gerald Seib suggests that maybe it is, at least in theory:

The broad outlines of what needs to be done are pretty well known. There is even something of a consensus. Serious thinkers in both parties...
Read Post

Nazi Tax Policy Comes to Washington?

(0) Comments | Posted May 29, 2012 | 10:27 AM

When two Democratic senators proposed a bill to increase the penalties on billionaire expatriates, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, offered a typically helpful suggestion. The lawmakers should look to Nazi Germany for inspiration, he said.

"I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this," Norquist...

Read Post

Let's Require the Full Monty for Candidate Tax Returns

(1) Comments | Posted March 29, 2012 | 4:50 PM

Enough already. It's time to stop begging, pleading, cajoling, and threatening. If we want our presidential candidates to release their tax returns, let's make it a legal requirement.

Over the next couple of weeks, all the candidates running for president will release their 2010 personal tax returns. Or maybe they...

Read Post

What Passes for a Big Idea in Washington? Stupid Tax Tricks.

(0) Comments | Posted August 16, 2011 | 3:49 PM

This item is cross-posted at The Tax Daily for the Citizen Taxpayer.

Some wild White House advisers are just itching to trot out a bold new economic plan, according to the New York Times. The milquetoast crowd -- led by David Plouffe and William Daley...

Read Post

Why Liberals Should Learn to Love the Debt Debate

(41) Comments | Posted August 1, 2011 | 9:07 PM

The debt limit crisis is the best thing to happen to liberalism in 30 years. It's a manufactured crisis, of course. Republicans conjured it out of thin air, convinced that it will force a radical -- and permanent -- reduction in the size of government.

But they're wrong. Far...

Read Post

Not Grover: Who's the Progressive Counterpart to Norquist?

(50) Comments | Posted July 19, 2011 | 10:26 AM

Grover Norquist is everywhere. In recent weeks, the head honcho at Americans for Tax Reform has been profiled, lauded, or excoriated by a slew of media outlets. I was interviewed earlier this week for a piece on NPR, and a quick search turns up recent items...

Read Post

When It Comes to Taxes, It Might Be Legal But It Ain't Always Right

(2) Comments | Posted May 2, 2011 | 10:20 AM

Tax avoidance is legal and tax evasion is not. Simple distinction, but not always relevant, at least not in politics. Consider the recent burst of outrage over corporate tax avoidance generally, and General Electric's tax bill in particular. In some years, GE's tax schemes might have escaped public notice. But...

Read Post

Think Taxes Are too Complicated? They Thought So in 1915, too.

(7) Comments | Posted April 19, 2011 | 10:35 AM

Other than "too much," the most common complaint about the income tax is probably "too complicated." Fair enough. But let's not turn this legitimate objection into another count in the indictment of modern American government.

The income tax today is complex, but it was complex in decades past, too....

Read Post