Is a VAT Tax the Only Thing Separating the U.S. From a Banana Republic?

On a day of mind-numbing acronyms that few aside from tax preparers can decipher without IRS instructions, we should note one that could mark the way to tax system salvation. It's spelled V-A-T.

Currently, 143 countries levy some form of a value-added tax, or VAT, on goods and services. The United States is the only OECD country without one. In the European Union, VAT is the gold standard for funneling revenue to the federal level. The slippery socialists in France are able to fund 45% of the French state through VAT. The sales tax common in most U.S. states is similar to VAT, but it only goes toward state expenses.

One of the more viable proposals for an American version of the VAT comes from Yale University Professor, Michael Graetz. He proposes a 10-14 percent VAT in the US, versus the 19-25 percent required in Europe. This would generate enough revenue to allow the direct elimination of 100 million income tax returns. Coupled with a new maximum income tax rate of 25% on the wealthiest and a corporate rate of 15%, it could pave the way to much-needed solvency while simplifying a tax system mired in superfluous paperwork, loopholes and inefficiencies.

Graetz told Big Think today, "it is abundantly clear that we don't have a system that is well-positioned to raise the needed revenue."

On the relevance of VAT for the U.S., Graetz said an economic system as interconnected as the world's is today should have some complementary tax features.

His proposal, elaborated in 100 Million Unnecessary Returns: A Fair, Simple, and Competitive Tax Plan For The United States, is getting more traction in Washington, though Obama is not expected to enact any sweeping tax reforms until 2010 at the earliest

If simplifying a byzantine tax system--one that swallows 7.6 billion work hours per year--was not sufficient reason to consider a VAT proposal, consider a simple projection. At the current rate of national debt, the share of the U.S. GDP comprised of debt obligations is forecasted to jump to 80%. Such a figure would bar a country from membership in the OECD, European Community or any other recognized transnational economic union: in short, a banana republic.

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less
  • Climate change is no longer a financial problem, just a political one.
  • Mitigating climate change by decarbonizing our economy would add trillions of dollars in new investments.
  • Public attitudes toward climate change have shifted steadily in favor of action. Now it's up to elected leaders.

Following sex, some men have unexpected feelings – study

A new study shows that some men's reaction to sex is not what you'd expect, resulting in a condition previously observed in women.

Credit: Pixabay
Sex & Relationships
  • A new study shows men's feelings after sex can be complex.
  • Some men reportedly get sad and upset.
  • The condition affected 41% of men in the study
Keep reading Show less

Elizabeth Warren's plan to forgive student loan debt could lead to an economic boom

A plan to forgive almost a trillion dollars in debt would solve the student loan debt crisis, but can it work?

Photo credit: Drew Angerer / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren has just proposed a bold education reform plan that would forgive billions in student debt.
  • The plan would forgive the debt held by more than 30 million Americans.
  • The debt forgiveness program is one part of a larger program to make higher education more accessible.
Keep reading Show less