Let's guess: Will a person or institution looking for a place to invest $1 billion seek opportunities in the United States, where policy decisions are deliberately increasing taxes, debt, regulations and the cost of energy, and soon will increase the cost of borrowing and hiring? Or will the investor look at, say, India. It is the least urbanized major country -- 70 percent of Indians live in rural areas, 50 percent on farms -- so the modernizing and productivity-enhancing movement from the countryside to the city is in its infancy. This nation of 1.2 billion people has a savings rate of 25 percent to 30 percent, and fewer than 20 million credit cards. Which nation, India or the United States, is apt to have the higher economic growth over the next decade?
Yet while government diminishes America's comparative advantages, liberals are clamoring for ... higher taxes. Partly because of changes endorsed by presidents from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, approximately 60 percent of taxpayers now pay either no income tax (43 percent) or less than 5 percent of their income. Because one cannot raise significant money by that tax without nicking the middle class, or without bringing millions of people back onto the income tax rolls, attention is turning to a value-added tax.
A VAT is levied at every stage of production. Like the cap-and-trade regime being constructed, a VAT is a liberal politician's delight: It taxes everything, but opaquely.
Before he became an economic adviser in the Obama White House, where wit can be dangerous, Larry Summers said: Liberals oppose a VAT because it is regressive and conservatives oppose it because it is a money machine, but a VAT might come when liberals realize it is a money machine and conservatives realize it is regressive.
At the June 29 White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, with reference to health care legislation, if the president's pledge not to raise taxes on couples making less than $250,000 is "still active." Gibbs answered: "We are going to let the process work its way through." What is your guess?