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Alex McCord: A fresh idea to deficit debate

What are some creative ways to raise national revenue, <em>other</em> than increasing the income tax? Let's start with sugary drinks, fast food and overly processedsnacks.

During a week when looking at our stock portfolio feels like riding the mechanical bull at a rodeo, I feel a well-trained impulse to log off and look away.

Ride it out, they always say. For stocks, that might be a good thing to do, and if everyone did more of that the Dow might calm down a bit.

However, that head-in-the-sand method of avoidance often carries over to thinking about taxes, and it shouldn’t. On Tuesday my husband Simon suggested re-thinking the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. It’s a roadblock to any serious discussion of debt relief. Do I want to pay more income tax? Absolutely not; I nearly had a coronary when writing out checks to the government this year.

However, that pledge has morphed into a status-quo keeper.

Do we really want our elected officials to continue entering office under a chokehold to do nothing about our financial situation? I decided to look up the pledge and read it, but it wasn’t that simple. There’s a federal version and a state one. The federal pledge specifically references federal income tax. The state pledge covers “any and all taxes.” What if you are a state official who moves on to a federal job; where do your loyalties lie?

I’ve thought for a long time that taxing everything that’s inherently bad for our health is a good idea. It would both raise revenue and perhaps do more to improve our diets than color-coded food plates, but signers of the state pledge can’t even suggest that.

Republicans just added three senators and three House members to the deficit panel, but all six of them are bound by the pledge, so what good does that do? Spending cuts only go so far. Rewriting the pledges isn’t an answer; it would take time and money, and we’re in this situation because there isn’t enough of either.

It’s time to ditch the pledges and start thinking of creative non-income taxes. Sugary drinks, fast food, overly processed snacks are a great place to start; tax ‘em as high as cigarettes and gasoline.

 
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