Rick Wolff: Economic Crisis Hits States and Municipalities

How Bad Will It Get?Crises expose the system’s irrationalities and wasteful resource allocations. For example, Madoff and his many, smaller imitators reveal the tips of corruption icebergs. More important, the crisis-induced fiscal emergencies looming in most of the 50 states demonstrate several absurdities in our economic system. … For those who are willing to look beyond the usual economic blinders, here’s an old suggestion that only seems new because of the effective ban put on public discussion for so long. At the present time, the vast majority of US states and municipalities exempt intangible property from property taxes. That is, stocks and bonds are kinds of property not subject to the taxes on other kinds of property (land, houses, etc.). If we imposed a very low rate of property tax on intangible property, it would cover the present and anticipated fiscal shortfalls of US cities, towns, and states. Moreover, an intangible property tax would fall on those most able to pay, those who fared best since the 1970s as the gap between rich and poor widened sharply. If coordinated across all states and cities (perhaps levied and collected by Washington and then returned to states and municipalities), intangible property owners would have no incentive to move it from one place to another. Read more