The Elusive Quest for Income Equality

Institute scholar Ernie Goss posted an interesting piece at the Economic Trends blog, which can be found here http://www.economictrends.blogspot.com/. In this post, “Taxing Rich More Heavily Gets Votes, But Ineffective in Reducing Inequality”, Dr. Goss discusses data involving the share of federal income taxes born by the top 10 percent of earners. It may not surprise you that the relative tax burden (measured by the share of income tax collections) born by that group has increased over time, while the share born by the bottom 50% has gone down. As Dr. Goss reports, many in the bottom 50% have negative tax rates, due to the Earned Income Credit and other refundable credits that function as transfer payments from the government.

Looking at the IRS Statistics of Income, it appears Continue reading The Elusive Quest for Income Equality

The Value of Information in Rulemaking

Earlier this month, the Treasury Department announced the withdrawal of proposed regulations dealing with the substantiation of charitable gifts of more than $250. Before you yawn and move on to the next topic, please stay tuned. This provides a valuable object lesson about the value of information in the hands of rulemakers — and its conspicuous absence in some cases.

Unlike the “Galaxy Far, Far, Away” that was the subject of my last post, people in the real world are in the process of getting materials together to complete their federal income tax returns. Charitable organizations are working to ensure that their donors receive appropriate receipts for their donations, which are required in order to claim itemized deductions on their tax returns. Those deductions Continue reading The Value of Information in Rulemaking

The Economics of Star Wars

This past week, my sons and I ventured out to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We saw the 3-D version, which requires wearing those fashionable glasses and delivers the added benefit of seeing fellow humans wearing the same eyewear.   Shared cultural experience is all too rare in the isolating world of entertainment on demand — we should value it whenever it occurs.

My oldest son, who remembered prior installments from his youth, observed that the new film has the same look and feel as the early ones. We agreed that the film has the capacity to reawaken that sense of wonder and amazement about this imagined world.  Nostalgia was stoked by appearances from original cast members, including Harrison Ford and his sidekick, Chewbacca, who are still up to their usual hijinks. (I hope that someday there is a spinoff featuring Wookie culture — but the dialogue might become tiresome.)

I have not come to praise the film, but instead to ponder the economic premises underlying the story.  Continue reading The Economics of Star Wars