“Michael Graetz of Columbia Law School points out that “the United States is a relatively low-tax country, but not with respect to income taxes … We typically collect about 12 percent of GDP in corporate and individual income taxes, while the OECD nations average about 13 percent. The biggest difference is that most other nations rely much more heavily on consumption taxes than we do: 11 percent of GDP in the OECD compared to about 5 percent in the United States. Indeed, we are the only OECD nation that does not impose a national level tax on sales of goods and services.”
This raises the possibility of a fourth option for American tax reform, distinct from the phony centrism of Simpson-Bowles (closing loopholes while lowering rates for the rich and cutting entitlements for the majority), radical conservatism (the single flat tax) and conventional progressivism (relying for more revenue chiefly on higher personal income taxes combined with bigger tax credits). The fourth option would reject the goal of revenue neutrality and acknowledge that, in a nation with an aging population, federal taxes can and should be permanently increased to pay for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. (These, like the rest of the American healthcare sector, need to be made solvent by price reduction and price regulation, not rationing). Much or most of the needed additional revenue should come from the adoption by the federal government of a VAT. A federal VAT’s revenues could be shared with state and local governments, partly replacing existing sales taxes.