Are All Tax Cuts Good? A Hypothetical Proposal

July 26, 2009

I was reading an article recently on the Fairness Doctrine, and it occurred to me that since members of Congress frequently look to the tax code to pursue their agendas when regulation or spending policies aren’t an option, what if they tried to address this issue via the tax code?

That is, suppose the Democrats gave up on trying to force (via regulation) radio stations to give “equal time” to differing political viewpoints. Instead, suppose they put into law a (nonrefundable) “Talk Radio Fairness Tax Credit” that would be given to radio stations based upon the number of hours in a day that a liberal talk show host was on the air. (There would be a department within the IRS to determine who qualifies as a liberal host and maybe some proxy rules will develop, e.g. the host must use the phrase “social justice” when referring to health care or use the word “corporation” in a negative light at least once per day.)

So the big media giants like Clear Channel or Cumulus could get huge reductions on their tax bills for putting on the air Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, or Thom Hartmann in place of, say, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.

According to some who have the de facto position of supporting all tax cuts and who abhor the term “tax expenditures,” this must not only be a good tax cut (because all tax cuts are good); it’s also not a “subsidy” to the political left because tax expenditures aren’t like spending. It would just be a reduction in taxes or the government taking less of the people’s money (which is always good).

The reality, of course, is that not all government actions that result in less revenue for the Treasury are good public policy.

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