Rail advocates often call me “anti-transit,” probably because it is easier to call people names than to answer rational arguments. I’ve always responded that I’m just against wasteful transit. But looking at the finances and ridership of transit systems around the country, it’s hard not to conclude that all government transit is wasteful transit.
Numerous responses to my article in the New York Times yesterday about corporate tax inversions indicated a lack of understanding. Related articles by Levin, Johnston, and Huang similarly suggested that further enlightenment is needed.
The corporate inversion trend tells us that global tax competition is intense and that U.S. tax reform is long overdue. Our combined federal-state corporate tax rate of 40 percent is far higher than the rates of our trading partners. Inversions are a bid by companies to create self-help tax reform while Congress sits on its hands.
Paul Light of Brookings and NYU is a top expert on the federal bureaucracy. He has a new study on federal government failures over the 2001 to 2014 period.
Most politicians are optimistic about the government’s ability to intervene and solve problems. That’s one reason why they run for office. Neocons, for example, have excessive faith that foreign intervention can fix the world, while liberals embrace the misguided idea that subsidies and regulations can boost the economy.
The technical arguments against the Export-Import Bank are provided in this excellent summary by Veronique de Rugy. However, one argument against Ex-Im and other business subsidies is not stressed enough in policy debates: subsidies weaken the businesses that receive them.
Congress faces gridlock on many issues until after the November elections, but a transportation bill is still high on the agenda, because the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) will soon run out of money after years of elevated spending. Congress will probably put a bandage on the HTF to get it through this year, but eventually it will have to choose between tax increases and spending cuts.
A June 24 article in the Washington Post looked at sea level rise in North Carolina. Unfortunately, the article followed a common template of portraying a battle of science vs. conservative politics and environmentalism vs. capitalism. But as I noted here about water and drought in the West, liberals and libertarians can agree on the benefits of cutting anti-environmental subsidies.
Since the 1960s, the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) has provided a list of all federal subsidy programs. That includes subsidies to individuals, businesses, nonprofit groups, and state and local governments. The CFDA includes subsidies for farmers, retirees, school lunches, rural utilities, the energy industry, rental housing, public broadcasting, job training, foreign aid, urban transit, and much more.
The federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is running out of money. Congress will likely pass a short-term fix for the program in coming weeks. Over the longer term, many policymakers favor raising taxes to close the $14 billion annual gap between HTF spending and revenues.