An obituary in the Washington Post for Robert Poli provides a chance to look back at a decisive moment in Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Poli was the head of the militant Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO), which launched an illegal strike in 1981. The Post describes the significance of the action:
Governments tend to spend money on low-value activities because they do not have market signals or customer feedback to guide them. In this report, I examined the problem with respect to the Transportation Security Administration. As one example, TSA’s SPOT program for finding terrorists spends more than $200 million a year with few if any benefits.
We have an uncompetitive federal corporate tax rate of 35 percent compared to Canada’s 15 percent. Our Roth IRA is inferior to Canada’s TFSA, as Amity Shlaes and I discussed in the Wall Street Journal. And while Serena Williams still tops rising star Eugenie Bouchard, we should be paying attention to ”What Canada Can Teach Us About Tennis.”
Large government projects often double in cost between when they are first considered and when they are finally completed. This pattern—call it “Edwards’ Law”—is revealed in story after story about highways, airports, computer systems, and other types of government infrastructure.
News outlets are running stories about the rise in corporate tax inversions. Inversions are financial reorganizations that place U.S. firms under foreign parent corporations. They are one of the many ways that companies are responding to America’s uniquely high corporate tax rate.
President Obama is not doing enough to rein in spending and deficits. He says the deficit has been cut in half since he came to office. But that is a cut from the giant 2009 figure of $1.4 trillion, which was so high partly because of his costly stimulus bill.
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.