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Monday, June 11, 2012

Two questions that are hard to answer

1. What is the actual tax burden on different groups (different income levels, wealth levels) in U.S. society? Looking at the personal income tax gives one result (or set of results). Adding other taxes changes the pictures. The corporate income tax maybe falls largely on the wealthy, who are shareholders, except inasmuch as corporations can pass the taxes on as higher prices that are borne more widely. Property taxes, fuel taxes, sales taxes all are relatively regressive. (And how should the analysis take indirect effects into account, as when renters pay higher rents to cover property taxes that are directly incidental on the property owners?) It's quite complicated, as well as being politically highly charged.

2. What is the current condition of think tanks, in terms of the size and stability of their funding, who's funding them and the degree to which donors are able to influence or control the output of the organizations? Also, do such conditions vary greatly across the ideological spectrum? Another complicated question, and one that's hard to answer because of the lack of transparency at the think tanks and the lack of anybody who might do an analysis without having some kind of axe to grind.

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