The tax code, far beyond simply collecting revenue to fund the operations of the federal government, attempts to perform policy and political functions as well. This paper does not examine the normative value of these provisions, but instead examines the hidden costs of today’s tax code: time and money spent submitting tax forms, foregone economic growth, lobbying expenditures, and gaps in revenue collection. These problems grow larger as the Internal Revenue Code becomes more complicated and temporary. Based on the studies reviewed in this paper, we estimate that hidden costs range from $215 billion to $987 billion and that the tax code results in a $452 billion revenue gap in unreported taxes. The economic costs are substantial relative to the $2.45 trillion in revenues raised by the federal government in 2012.
A rule enacted by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2003 required institutions to adopt and disclose policies for proxy voting that were intended to minimize conflicts between the institutions’ interests and those of their shareholders. An SEC staff interpretation of that rule led to a result almost the opposite of the ruling’s intent. Institutions could easily protect themselves from legal liability by shifting responsibility to proxy advisory firms, which acquired increasing power over corporate governance, to the detriment of shareholders.
In the wake of a 2012 Supreme Court ruling, states face complex decisions concerning whether to expand Medicaid coverage to the full extent envisioned in the Affordable Care Act (ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare). With the federal government no longer able to coerce expansion, states must base their decisions on value judgments that incorporate each state’s unique budgetary circumstances, the needs of its uninsured population, and the incentives established by interactions among the ACA’s provisions.
There was only one lane open as I made my trip to Atlanta; the other three were blocked with those unhappy yellow and black make-believe barrels used by the highway folks. Traffic flow was constrained by efforts to repair potholes and broken pavement. We in the slow lane had little choice in the matter. Instead of 70, we were slowed to 20 miles per hour. We had to accept our fate, or find another route at the next exit.
The collapse of the federal budget process and the decline in trust in government threaten the stability of the self-governing republic that we inherited from our nation’s founders. Informed by their moral and political philosophy, we suggest an approach to reforming the budget process aimed at reclaiming that institutional trust. We argue that budget process reform must be animated by two related ideas: First, that post-constitutional statutory law must be impartial, and second, that both citizens and their elected representatives have a right to participate in, and to influence, the political process.
This paper suggests a process to identify, evaluate, and eliminate inefficient regulations. Combining lessons from two successful government reform programs—the Base Realignment and Closure Act in the United States and the Dutch Administrative Burden Reduction Programme—the proposed framework would identify the regulatory costs associated with a historical piece of legislation and create a target for reduction in regulatory costs.