Taxes We Should Impose on Politicians
It’s tax time once again, and this year’s presidential campaign has got us all thinking about tax reform. However, instead of acquiescing as candidates and elected officials — and especially President Obama — propose new ways to tax us, maybe it’s time for taxpayers to turn the tax tables by considering taxes we should impose on politicians.
And there would be benefits, besides the juicy satisfaction of getting a little revenge. While taxes are meant to raise revenue, they can also be used to punish people or encourage them to change their behavior — and we could sure use some change in Washington. So in that spirit I herewith propose five new taxes to be imposed on our elected officials.
The Term-Limits Tax — Congress has never passed term-limit legislation, which forces members back into the real world after serving for a designated number of years. Some oppose term limits, correctly arguing that the voters have the right to oust a House member every other year, and senators after six years. But there may be an easier way to encourage those members to reconsider the benefits of limited public service: a terms-limit tax.
After members of Congress served a set number of years, they would begin to lose a portion of their congressional income, say 25 percent, for each time they won a new term. Thus members of the House who continued to run for and win reelection after the designated number of terms would begin to see their salary reduced; eight years after their term-limit date, they would be working for free.
No one would tell them they couldn’t run for reelection after the designated limit, but they would make less money the longer they stayed. Such a tax would help to remind our elected officials that the purpose of elected office is to serve the public, not themselves.
The Flip-Flop Tax — Sometimes our elected officials will take a firm, principled stand on one side of an issue, only to flip and take a firm, principled stand on the other side — especially when the latter becomes more politically popular.
While it’s true that politicians should be open-minded, willing to listen to new information and opposing arguments, and adjust their position accordingly, that “information” should not be the most recent poll numbers.
We should give our politicians one flip, but when they go to flop, we should tax them. Yes, President Obama would be a poor man if we were ever to implement such a tax; but on the positive side, the federal budget might finally balance.
The Sound Bite Tax — Voters are constantly complaining about the emptiness of the political sound bite. Then let’s tax them. Any sound bite that is less than 30 seconds and devoid of substance — which is to say, most of them — should result in a tax on the deliverer and even the media who, lemming-like, regurgitate it with little or no analysis.
As a result, politicians would either begin to offer more substantive comments, or their campaign coffers would empty much more quickly.
The Negative Campaign Ad Tax — Every election year we are inundated with negative political adds, and this year will likely be the worst yet. Voters say they don’t like them, but politicians — like compulsive drinkers and gamblers addicted to their habits — say they can’t help themselves. Well, let’s impose a “sin tax” on those politicians when they run a negative ad.
The Lying-Item Veto Tax — For years U.S. presidents wanted Congress to give them a “line-item veto,” which would allow the president to identify and eliminate inappropriate projects from the federal budget.
What we need is something similar that allows citizens to identify inappropriate statements and tax politicians who can’t seem to tell the truth — a lying-item veto tax. We could set up a nonpartisan commission to investigate every time a politician is accused of lying and tax the person if the allegations are confirmed. Though the commission would have a busy schedule, this could be one of the most effective taxes in raising the level of political discourse.
It’s a political truism that whatever you subsidize you get more of and whatever you tax you get less. Setting up the tax system correctly will encourage people to do the right thing.
By imposing these taxes on politicians we would get less of the kind of behavior that drives Americans to hate politics. And if those politicians refused to change their behavior, at least the financially struggling government would begin to raise some serious revenue — and for once it wouldn’t be the average taxpayer footing the bill.