WASHINGTON -- When liberals advocate a value-added tax, conservatives should respond: Taxing consumption has merits, so we will consider it -- after the 16th Amendment is repealed.
A VAT will be rationalized as necessary to restore fiscal equilibrium. But without ending the income tax, a VAT would be just a gargantuan instrument for further subjugating Americans to government.
Believing that a crisis is a useful thing to create, the Obama administration -- which understands that, for liberalism, worse is better -- has deliberately aggravated the fiscal shambles that the Great Recession accelerated. During the downturn, federal revenues plunged and spending soared. And, as will happen for two decades, every day 10,000 more baby boomers are joining the ranks of recipients of Medicare and Social Security, two programs with unfunded liabilities of nearly $107 trillion.
In the context of this concatenation of troubles, the administration's highest priority was to put an enormous new health care entitlement on the welfare state's rickety scaffolding. Why? Because the liberals' lunge to maximize government's growth depends on quickly creating a crisis that can be called a threat to the entitlement menu, and to the currency as a store of value. Then the public can be panicked into accepting the addition of a VAT to the existing menu of taxes.
A VAT is collected on value added at stages during the process of production, but most of its burden is borne by consumers. They file no VAT returns, so its stealthiness delights the political class, which can increase it in small, barely noticed increments, with every percentage point yielding another $100 billion.
Although the nation's welfare often varies inversely with that of the political class, a VAT would ameliorate a real problem: Americans consume too much and save too little. Furthermore, today's baroque tax code drives economic distortions and enables corruptions.