The long view on the current crisis: time for an Internet sales tax for education

Spending is down, sales tax revenues are falling, real estate values and the correlating property taxes are falling- and even the “Fair tax” advocates are pro-consumption taxes, so it’s time to institute a fixed national sales tax on all items purchased over the Internet, collected Federally, and distributed per capita, by student- for education.

Not only is this a better way to fund education, it would make it easier for business to have to worry about only one tax rate and one tax collector nationally (the idiots in Columbus try to have it be businesses’ responsibility to collect different rates for all 88 counties- stupid). But, most importantly, we can stop having to rely on local governments to fund our most valuable future investment: our future workers.

The concept of investing in social capital (or as Robert Reich calls it: human capital) is one that will always pay back. Read this portion of his commentary on American Public Radio’s Marketplace:

ROBERT REICH: Our preoccupation with the immediate crisis of financial capital is causing us to overlook the bigger crisis in America’s human capital. While we commit hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to Wall Street, we’re slashing our outlays for public education.

Education is largely funded by state and local governments whose revenues are plummeting. As consumers cut back, state sales taxes are shrinking, and as home values decline local property taxes are taking a hit. Three-quarters of our states are facing budget crises. As a result, schools are being closed, teachers laid off, after-school programs cut, so-called “noncritical” subjects like history eliminated, and tuition hiked at state colleges.

It’s absurd. We’re bailing out every major bank to get financial capital flowing again. But we’re squeezing the main sources of our human capital.

Yet, the future competitiveness and standard of living of America depend on our peoples’ skills, their capacities to communicate and solve problems, and innovate — not their ability to borrow money.

What’s more, human capital is rooted here, while financial capital moves around the globe at the speed of an electronic blip. Right now global capital markets are frozen, but the big money — mostly in Asia and the Middle East — will come back here eventually, bailout or no bailout.

via Marketplace: Where’s the bailout for human capital?.

In all this talk about bailing out the banking industry and the American auto manufacturers for ungodly sums of money- and Barack Obama’s talk about investing in infrastructure- very little has been said about what kind of work force we want to have in the future. If we don’t invest in our people, we may not have the brain power to continue to matter in the world.

With our financial system in tatters, and the dollar becoming little more than monopoly money, used to buy off politicians- why would anyone want to invest here instead of the fastest growing, larger economies of China or India?

The reality is, Internet sales need to be taxed, without making online commerce more difficult. Eliminating local education taxes and the expensive mechanisms used to collect them, as well as the insanity of school levies – should help make this an easy transition- that even businesses will see a benefit through simpler collection processes.

Look at the cuts that every State is facing. If not now, when? It’s time to get serious about funding our social capital, before we don’t have any left.

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