In an ideal world, the budget would be balanced, the deficit minimized, and taxes low. Unfortunately, we live in the USA. None of these dreams are likely to be part of the economic reality anytime soon. Perhaps I can be of some assistance.
Here are seven novel tax ideas that can help get us back to where we need to be. Some are very serious; some, not so much. All of them, however, could be implemented before Congress adjourns for the year with just a little bit of political sneakiness. But for reasons you'll soon see, none ever will be.
1. Capital gains tax on Congressional insider trading
How it could work: Tax profits on securities purchased or sold by members of Congress at a 100% rate.
Reason: We are a nation of laws. Our nation's businesses live and die by these laws. The fact that our lawmakers are generally free to trade in the markets using the knowledge they accumulate on a daily basis being in Congress is absolutely outrageous. While our banking system was collapsing, members of Congress were busy using their influential positions to trade and profit on stocks like Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America. I think this is a completely shameless amount of latitude to have as a public servant. This behavior should be eliminated -- but if lawmakers won't take the high road, we should at least make some money from them doing so.
2. Federal lottery tax
How it could work: Add an additional 25% tax to the cost of lottery tickets.
Reason: State governments need all the money they can get these days, and I appreciate that many state lotteries programs do good things. But let's be frank here. Lotteries essentially rob Peter to pay Paul. They're a tax on the mathematically illiterate, and if fewer people thought of them as a useful recreational activity, the world would be a better place.
3. Bonus taxes on failing CEOs
How it could work: Put a 100% tax on the bonuses of executives at companies whose long-term returns on invested capital fall significantly short of that company's long-term costs of capital.
Reason: By definition, bonuses are designed to reward productive behaviors. Executives who habitually destroy capital deserve no bonus. Of course, executive compensation is more of a shareholder concern, but it seems that far too many CEOs and executives skate off with bonus money when they've actually hurt a business, despite supposedly strong corporate governance procedures. There needs to be a mechanism in place to rectify that.
4. Federal tax on speed camera revenue
How it could work: Tax state revenues on speed cameras by 100%.
Reason: Speeding is a bit of a game. People go faster than the speed limit allows, essentially because they're betting that no one is around to pay attention. The police in many states have decided to cheat at this game using sophisticated technology that I believe runs afoul of the greater philosophical understanding that exists between drivers and police officers. As a sporting man, I'm offended by the dishonor that cameras bring to the table. I don't think states should get to enjoy the fruits of their underhanded game-changing. Let the money go toward the federal deficit instead.
5. Short-term capital gains tax
How it could work: Increase the short-term capital gains rate to at least 50%.
Reason: No small amount of academic knowledge out there demonstrates that short-term investing in the market tends to be significantly destructive, especially for the individual. Why not discourage the practice, perhaps while even encouraging the opposite by offering corresponding drop in the long-term cap gains rate? Incidentally, the fact that this would create a shadow tax on Wall Street trading houses that monopolize the short-term markets, such as Fortress Investment Group and Blackstone, doesn't bother me at all.
6. Sales tax on frivolous luxury products
How it could work: Levy an additional 10% tax on very specific luxury products.
Reason: If you're buying a Ferrari, I'd be willing to bet that you probably don't care whether it's $500,000 or $550,000. Plus, if you do care, no one cares that you care -- you can go buy a Lexus instead. The government should raise the price tag just a bit on the type of products that companies like Coach and Moet Hennessey Louis Vuitton sell. If all you're going to do is spray your friends with that $250 bottle of Champagne on your new yacht, who cares if it costs just a little bit more?
7. Tax on ugly buildings
How it could work: Create an agency in the federal government whose mission would be to review the aesthetic quality of new developments, taxing the low-rating entities by an additional 10%.
Reason: I'm not saying it should be illegal to build ugly things. It should just be more expensive. An extra incentive to build nice-looking things in this country would beneficial to just about everyone -- except, of course, for lousy architects.
Fool Nick Kapur is all for low taxes, provided that things are getting paid for. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.