Pro Logica

October 8, 2012

Government Reform–Part 1: Introduction

This post is the first of possibly five separate posts on governmental reform in the United States (as it develops, additional posts may be added).  These posts will be interrelated and culminate in a post on tax reform.  The topics as currently envisioned are: government pay, Social Security and Medicare, non-profit organizations and taxes.

The existing U.S. income tax has been around for some seventy years and in that time it has been used to implement various social benefits to the citizenry.  For many people and organizations, the job of determining how much one owes has become a chore and tax reform has been battered about for years without any reform at all.  Tinkering with the specifics of the law each year has, more or less, become a habit of the legislature and even if all loopholes were eliminated it wouldn’t be very long before Congress would start the tinkering process all over.  The current presidential candidates are proposing changes to the existing tax code, these changes consisting of either raising or lowering rates on various classes of income and removing so-called loopholes which allow some taxpayers to pay a lesser amount than the standard rate–really, more tinkering and further legitimizing its existing structure.   Furthermore, the current tax code can be invidiously tweaked to alter the rates among the various classes and to add insult, the descriptions of the changes rarely inform the taxpayer of any increase to their taxes; they might tout a decrease however.  For instance, in 2010, those seniors who paid taxes, paid more than they would have under the 2009 calculations simply because the extra exemption for those over 65 was removed and a much smaller figure was added to the allowable deduction.  In my case the increased tax liability amounted to almost $600.00.  This particular change does raise some interesting questions:

  • Did Congress actually approve this change of calculation by passing a bill which received a presidential confirmation or was vetoed and then over-ridden by the necessary majority?  (Republicans and Grover Norquist notwithstanding.)
  • If not the above then, where in the Executive Branch did this change actually originate and was it approved by the POTUS in a presidential directive?  (The POTUS must have been involved somewhere, but its inclusion might have been hidden in routine operations.)
  • Does the law, as written, actually allow such Executive Branch revisions?  (Congress ultimately at fault.)
  • Was there no comment period and did any retired senior lobby (AARP especially) complain about this change?

Clearly, if transparency and simplicity is supposed to be a governmental goal, the existing tax code is inadequate.

Federal government pay has been a subject of contention ever since the Federal government has been paying employees.  Many private employees and employers believe that government workers are overpaid while the government workers, themselves, believe the opposite.  A liberal reading of the U.S. Constitution will only affirm that its elected officials, appointees and required staff will be paid.  Clearly, its authors did not believe that a fixed pay schedule would stand the test of time.  The views here can range between ‘bureaucratic personnel are overpaid’ and ‘Confucianism’.

Social Security and Medicare certainly need revision since our country’s demographics do not elicit any confidence that these programs will pay for themselves in the far foreseeable future.  These programs are exceedingly well-liked by U.S. citizens and reform will be exceedingly difficult, but something must be done.

And finally, non-profits need more definitional scrutiny since they are often used as methods for circumventing established laws and/or beliefs of accountability by government and, private individuals and organizations.  Witness today’s concern about super PAC’s.

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