This year April 18 is the end of the ordinary window for paying income taxes to federal and state governments. Paying income taxes may be a necessary part of civic life, but that payment should be timed and structured to promote government accountability. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, our politicians have made it difficult for citizens to be conscious of how much they are paying for government services at the time when it would most count—election day.
First, the ordinary window for tax payments—from January 1 to April 15—makes the act of paying taxes a distant memory by the time the first Tuesday in November rolls around. It does not take a behavioral economist to recognize that paying taxes closer to the election would make voters focus on whether they are getting value for money from government. Thus, the ordinary payment window should be changed to the month before the November election.
Second, as a result of withholding, most voters get a refund from the government when they file their taxes. This process also makes them less conscious of the tax burden, since most do not actually write a check to the government, but instead get a check from the government. Thus, withholding should be modified to make citizens feel the effect of taxes.
The 20th century ended amid well-founded optimism that Latin America had taken firm steps toward democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Only the island of Cuba seemed stuck in the era of military dictatorship and authoritarianism. But in the last 15 years, things have changed. Political violence has reappeared in many Latin countries and criminality is on the rise, with concomitant erosion of respect for individual rights.
Election Day was, no doubt, a great night for Republicans and for those resisting the progressive agenda. But I think much of the rhetoric about this and past contests is overheated. My view about these matters is primarily structural or cyclical.
It was the sixth year of a two term President and therefore the President’s party was likely to lose a significant number of seats. The President is unpopular and so that makes it even more likely.
Of course, this is not meant to downplay the results. Rather, the point is that the Republicans should have won and probably would have still won (with a smaller victory) even if the President was more popular than he is.
I had a similar reaction to Obama’s reelection in 2012. It is difficult to defeat a sitting President and the economy, while weak, was good enough to allow him to be reelected. He was not challenged in the primaries and there were no other enormous problems that would lead him to be defeated. Still, Romney might have won had he run a more competent campaign – had he, for example, been better in the second debate – but probably that debate did not decide the election.