Sunday, July 18, 2010

Progressive consumption taxes

According to Matthew Yglesias:

In terms of reform it, the frustrating thing is that everyone agrees that it would be better to have a progressive consumption tax than a progressive income tax. And yet, nobody does this and there’s no sign of a political move to do it. So if there were to be a major political push toward reforming the tax code, why not reform it all the way?

This sounds good (and would benefit misers like me greatly) but there is a problem. There is a quite plausible case that the root cause of our current difficulties is that people are trying to save too much. This can cause cuts in production (and layoffs) because people do not want to currently consume all that the economy is capable of producing. Or it can cause asset price bubbles and bad loans as the amount of savings exceeds the amount of worthwhile investment opportunities. If so a progressive consumption tax would just make things worse.

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