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Robert Frank On Taxing Our Way To Solvency

I was going to write a broadly “what would Robert Frank say” take on a superior alternative to the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ budget proposal, but it looks like Ezra Klein just asked Robert Frank:

Robert Frank, an economist at Cornell University, is one of the more innovative tax thinkers I know. In particular, I’ve always been partial to his proposal for a progressive consumption tax (pdf). So I ran the plan by him, as well. “The progressive budget proposal is of course an enormous improvement over the bizarre Ryan budget,” he said, “which for all its chest thumping about facing up to the hard choices, does nothing — absolutely nothing — to reduce long-run deficits.” But like Gale and Burman, Frank wanted to see more simplification and reform. In particular, he wanted more attention given to what we tax with an eye toward two-fers: raising more money off of things we want less of. “When we enter congested roadways, or buy heavy vehicles, or drink to excess, or emit CO2 into the air, we impose costs on others,” he says. “Taxing such activities kills two birds with one stone: It generates much needed revenue, and it curtails activities that cause more harm than good. Because these taxes make the economic pie bigger, it makes no sense to object that we can’t afford them.” He recommended this piece (pdf) for more on those ideas.

So, yes, that. Tax consumption, tax traffic congestion, tax pollution, tax public health hazards.

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