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Here is a plan to end the budget deficit.  It doesn't involve making people starve, it doesn't involve bigger government and it only raises taxes on people who can easily afford it.

1. End the war in Afghanistan
2. End the war on drugs
3. Tax capital gains as ordinary income
4. Have many more income tax brackets and much higher marginal rates at the top
5. Legalize gambling
6. End oil depletion allowance
7. Stop subsidizing WalMart et al.

Details below the Kos Croissant

1. End the war in Afghanistan

According to this updating widget the cost of the war in Afghanistan thus far is about $600 billion.  The same site offers an annualized cost and says that the cost in 2011 alone was $122 billion dollars. Of course, even if we ended the war tomorrow, that cost wouldn't go to 0 - the soldiers will come home and many will need help. But the cost would decline dramatically.

2. End the war on drugs

There are lots of options here, but one is to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana and decriminalize all other drugs. A lot of people use marijuana, although it's hard to know precisely how many. NIDA estimates, 18.1 million Americans used marijuana in the last month.  They don't say how often or how much the typical user used. I did find some old data on frequency of use, and it seems like the average user smokes about 2 joints a day. So, if each joint had a tax of $1, that's $2 per day per 18 million people equals about $1 billion per year. But that is just the start. If marijuana growth was legal, the companies that sold it would also pay tax.

And if drugs were decriminalized, people wouldn't go to jail for using. The cost of jail time is mostly borne by the states, but people who are in jail don't buy stuff (that slows the economy) and they don't pay tax.

Some people think that this would increase drug use; there is little evidence that it would and much that it would not.

3. Tax capital gains as ordinary income.

During the last POTUS campaigned, Romney admitted that one year he paid 14% in taxes. Mostly because capital gains are taxed at a much lower rate than regular income. And rich people make a large proportion of their money from capital gains.

4. Have many more income tax brackets and much higher marginal rates at the top

Many people here have noted that the marginal tax rates on the highest income people are declining. That's certainly true. But another factor is that the definition of "highest" income is broadening, at least as far as income tax is concerned. And, the gains in income have been concentrated not just among the wealthy but among the super rich.

In the past, we have had many more tax brackets and a much wider range of marginal rates. Tax foundation gives inflation adjusted rates and brackets. In 1975, the top bracket paid a 70% marginal rate, but that bracket (for a married couple) started at the equivalent of $834,000 (in today's dollars). Going back to the year I was born (1959) the top marginal rate was a whopping 91% - but only people who made the equivalent of $3,000,000 paid that.  Today, the top rate is only 35%, but that starts at a relatively modest $379,000. Now, I'm not saying people who make that much are poor or even middle class - that would be silly. But a couple making $400,000 a year is not super-rich. They aren't so rich that they forget how many houses they own; nor do they own car elevators.

The top marginal rate should be a lot higher, but it should apply to relatively few.

5. Legalize gambling

Gambling laws in this country are ridiculous. In NYC you can bet on horse races - but only at the race track. You can play lotteries of many varieties,  but you can't play a numbers game run by someone other than the government. You can go to Atlantic City and bet on all sorts of things (and similarly go to a casino on an Indian reservation) but not other gambling.  You can't bet on politics, but if you wire money to a friend in Europe, he or she can do it for you.  This is silly.

Legalize gambling, have gambling companies (privately run), and tax them.

6. End oil depletion allowance

This tax break is worth $4 billion a year. The oil companies have plenty of money already.

7. Stop subsidizing WalMart et al.

Many WalMart workers make so little that they qualify for government aid. Other large companies are probably similar, though less well known.  For the most part, these are part time workers. Now, many companies need some part time workers. But why don't we limit the number? For example, we could say that, if your company employs more than 100 people in any location, a maximum of 10% of those people could be part-time, unless you can prove in court that you need more.

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Comment Preferences

  •  add a Securities Transaction Tax (6+ / 0-)

    At 1/4 of 1%, we're talking $100B per year, or at 1/2% we theoretically bring in $200B per year.  I say theoretically, since perhaps as much as half of all trades are computer programmed micro-trades.  Its arguable that those trades don't help the economy anyway, so drop the resultant revenue to $50B and $100B. That's money to spend on the poor, retirees,  schools, or infrastructure.

    Corporations rail about the nominal, highest-in-world 35% income tax rate.  But the aggregate actually-paid tax rates for all corporations is barely half that (even lower for F2000). All corporate contributions last year were under $200B, near historical lows as % GDP.  And they're sitting on $2T in overseas profits that they want to repatriate - tax free of course.  

    Overseas tax shelters?  Stopped by executive order by W Bush (look up tax harmonization). Tariffs?  Used to be over 10% of government revenues.  Reagan took care of that.

    The money is there. The political will (and going against lobbyists/contributors) is, sadly, lacking

    •  Half of trades? Try 90% (or more) (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plf515, radarlady, Habitat Vic

      It might even be higher.  Especially for the much more complex trades involving derivatives and currency, and I'd through in semi-complex trades involving commodities and options in the mix as well.

      In any event, excellent suggestion here.

      It is done. Four More Years.

      by mconvente on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 11:31:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  wire money to a friend to gamble? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    plf515, radarlady

    Please be very careful with the idea of wiring money to a friend in Europe to gamble for you.

    It is not entirely clear that the Department of Justice agrees that this is legal. Many of the people who used to gamble professionally prior to the Bush DOJ's enforcement actions have decided that it isn't worth the risk to tempt the Obama DOJ with proxy wagering.

    The plural of anecdote is not data.

    by Skipbidder on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 11:50:31 AM PST

    •  OK, point taken (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Noddy, radarlady

      although I had heard that this was OK, perhaps not.

      •  might be OK... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        plf515, radarlady

        It might be OK in small the sense that nobody is going to pursue you for it.

        There have certainly been people detained for working as "agents" for foreign gambling websites.

        The general sense amongst people who were professionally sportsbetting prior to the Bush crackdowns is that this is a much riskier endeavor now. (At least that is what they say in public.) Most are not doing it (or not admitting to doing it at least).

        I don't have any legal expertise in the matter in any way, by the way.

        The plural of anecdote is not data.

        by Skipbidder on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 12:06:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  foriegn currency holdings (0+ / 0-)

          require strict reporting and have very stiff penalties.  This onerous requirement has caused a number of ex-patriates to renounce their citizenship.

          --United Citizens defeated Citizens United...This time. --

          by chipoliwog on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 04:54:17 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Mining reform (6+ / 0-)

    At present, gold mined from public lands pays ZERO in royalties.  Yeah, that's right --- nuthin'.  Ditto on copper, lithium, molybdenum, titanium, iron, silver, platinum, and so on.

    The law they still operate under, the 1872 Mining Act, was signed by Ulysses S. Grant.  It's purpose was to incentivize movement West.  It's beyond outdated.

    There's some billions to be had in that area.  Plus they should oughta take realistic bonds when they start mining, ahead of cleanup.  Save a lot of money later, in Superfund money, cleaning up what they left behind.  For that matter, we need to revive the Superfund fees that got repealed under Clinton/Gingrich.  Taxpayers have been picking up the tab in more recent years.  Some more billions to be had there, too.

    What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.? -- Nicholas Kristof, NYT --

    by Land of Enchantment on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 12:13:01 PM PST

  •  Not a Keynesian? (0+ / 0-)

    The concepts of deficit and surplus are truly Tertiary.

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 07:24:16 PM PST

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