The Tax Vox 2011 Lump of Coal Award: Kicking the Can Edition

By :: December 22nd, 2011

Welcome to Tax Vox’s fifth annual Lump of Coal Award recognizing 2011’s ten worst moments in fiscal policy. It is hard to imagine so much ugliness crammed into a mere 12 months. But after much thought and debate, the winners are:

10. The rating agency Standard & Poor’s for downgrading U.S. debt based upon a $2 trillion math error. Then, after the mistake was pointed out, claiming the numbers didn’t really matter. This from the same folks who for years could not smell the stench rising from piles of subprime mortgage debt.   

9. 9.9.9.   

8. President Obama’s newfound populism. Railing against a tax system that benefits millionaires and billionaires seems like pretty good Democratic politics. But Obama would be a lot more credible if he hadn’t helped extend the very law that makes it possible.  

7. The Virginia lawmaker who wants to give people an $8,000 tax deductionfor shooting their remains into space. The Commonwealth is dying for economic development, I suppose.       

6. The Super Committee. John Kennedy paraphrased the Gospel of Luke when he said, “To those whom much is given, much is expected.” I suppose in the case of the unfortunate super committee, nothing was given. And they met expectations.   

5.  The payroll tax fiasco. Let’s see if I understand. Democrats finally found a tax cut they loved. Republicans finally found one they hated. Now Democrats insist on extending the 2011 payroll tax break for just two months while House Republicans want to keep it going for a full year. As they used to say at the ballpark, “You can’t tell the players without a program.”         

4. Rick Perry’s tax reform plan.Here are three reasons why it makes no sense: It adds trillions to the deficit. It is deeply regressive. And, um….

3. The European Union. A special international Lump of Coal Award goes to les politicians and bureaucrats who can’t seem to get out of their own way. If you need your cheese regulated, this is your crowd. If you want a functioning economic union, you may want to look elsewhere.

2. Newt Gingrich’s tax reform.  So what if it would add $1 trillion a year to the deficit, largely by giving those earning $1 million or more an average tax cut exceeding $600,000. As Gingrich himself would tell you, it is a remarkable, historic idea. Yes, it is.  

1. Congress. Perhaps not since 1861 has a Congress performed as poorly. In the end, lawmakers seem to have accomplished only two things: They (barely) kept the government running while driving public confidence in their ability to govern into the single digits. For governing on the principle of mutually assured destruction and building a record of historic failure in the face of real fiscal and economic challenges, the 2011 Lump of Coal Award goes to the entire U.S. Congress.


  1. The Tax Vox 2011 Lump of Coal Award: Kicking the Can Edition | Tax Information  ::  3:06 pm on December 22nd, 2011:

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  2. Michael Bindner  ::  3:45 pm on December 22nd, 2011:

    You need to give Congress five lumps, one for each party in each house with the Tea Party members in the House getting their own lump. Reason, none of them can compromise on how to share. 9-9-9 is not bad in concept – its just the amounts were too low. The epic fail of 9-9-9 was really the entitlement cuts required for it to balance the budget. The entire policy and media establishment get a big lump of coal for failing to mention the implausibility of asking Republican governors to buy into the old Ryan plan – or an amped up version that eventually cuts off all federal retirement funds – while asking for their help in running for election.

  3. Tom  ::  10:19 am on December 24th, 2011:

    Your take on payroll tax fiasco echos dishonest tea party talking points. The democrats would have been happy to extend for twelve months, however, they did not want to do so with the GOP poison pills in the House bill, and the republicans would have blocked a twelve month extension without them in the Senate. The two month extension was to give the sides more time to fight over the details without the tax cut and unemployment expire.

    I don’t think a single Republican has said he would have voted for the mythical Krauthammer version of the Senate bill, with exactly the same provisions except for 12 months instead of 2.