Mend It, Don’t End It

Kevin Carey responded to my post from yesterday arguing that his opposition to the Arizona tax credit scholarship was inconsistent and not logically compelling.  I’m afraid that his argument remains as inconsistent and unpersuasive as it was before.

He rejects the claim that I attributed to him that tax credits and deductions, in general, are corrupt.  Instead, his argument is now that the AZ tax credit scholarship is “specifically” corrupt.  If that is his argument, then we might wonder why he doesn’t advocate for regulatory reform to keep the program while reducing the potential for abuse.  If tax deductions are not “inherently” corrupt, then we should be able to properly regulate this program to address his “specific” concerns.  In fact, Arizona has already revised its regulatory scheme to address the types of abuses he raised and Carey provides no evidence that the regulations now in place are insufficient.

In addition, if his objection all along was to specific problems with the AZ tax credit scholarship, why did he bother to write at length about how “there’s a well-established process for spending public resources” from which the Arizona program deviates by using tax credits rather than direct appropriations?  Methinks his argument doth shift after I pointed out that the tax code is a very common policymaking method to shape private behavior, and he wouldn’t want to object to the day care tuition tax credit, charitable donation deduction, etc…

And if his claim is that the AZ tax credit scholarship is particularly bad because it creates “private appropriators,”  why does he not have the same objection to charities as “private appropriators.”  After all, the tax credit scholarship organizations are just a specific type of charitable organization.  Like all charitable organizations, they are facilitated in their efforts with private funds by features in the tax code.  All such organizations then “appropriate” money to others.  And there is a potential for abuse with all charitable organizations, including the tax credit scholarship organizations, that we try to control through appropriate regulations.

I can’t imagine that Carey would favor abolishing the tax deduction for charitable giving, so it is unclear why, based on his stated concerns, he should advocate for the elimination of  the private school scholarship tax credit.  Of course, Carey is not motivated by his stated objections, since he would not apply those principles consistently.  Instead, his argument is really just that he opposes private school choice.  I don’t know why he doesn’t just write about that rather than hide behind a convoluted argument about the dangers of tax credits or his inconsistently applied principles of democratic policymaking.

Lastly, I can’t resist responding to Carey’s strange argument about what money belongs to the government.  He writes: “The government doesn’t own all of your money but it does own some of it.”  I agree.  Of course, the part the government owns does not include any of the portions for which I can receive a tax credit.  If his argument is simply that the money I owe the government, after all tax deductions and credits, belongs to the government, then he should have no objection to the AZ tax credit scholarship because that money, by definition, does not belong to the government.  The same is true for money I can keep after tax credits for day care tuition, energy-saving repairs on my house, etc…

Again, his argument has shifted to the point where it no longer advocates for the position he prefers.  Pointing out that there are specific problems with the AZ tax credit scholarship suggests he should favor regulatory reforms, not eliminating the program.  And pointing out that the government owns the money you owe it after all deductions and credits suggests that he should have no difficulty with the AZ tax credit scholarship.

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3 Responses to Mend It, Don’t End It

  1. Daniel Earley says:

    What can a treed cougar do besides shift from branch to branch? I’ve yet to hear of one suddenly recognizing his situation and then descending to enter into a rational dialog. Alas.

  2. Patrick says:

    mmmm cougars

  3. Daniel Earley says:

    No offense to cougars, of course, who are generally innocent — notwithstanding the Demi Moore variety.

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