One provision of the new tax law enables companies to sell their tax credits. In this way, a company that is not doing well can get some cash, and a company that is doing well gets a tax credit. This is such a wonderful idea that I propose [modestly, of course] that it be applied to everyone.
I, for instance, am having a pretty good year. I made a nice living, have a book contract, made some speeches and sold a magazine article or two. Under my scheme, I would be looking for, say, a welfare mother who would be willing to sell me her tax credits. I could buy a bit of her poverty and she could get a piece of my affluence -- also, in the same transaction, a bit of my guilt.
I am also in the market for some cavities. Last year, I had a bad year for cavities. There were many of them and my dentist, the Robert Moses of the dental profession, built bridges and dug tunnels and made wonderful things out of precious metals. This cost me plenty. This year, though, a modest regimen of brushing, flossing, toothpicking, hourly gargling, more brushing and no solid foods, has eliminated all cavities. I need some deductions. I would buy the dental bill of some person with really bad teeth and deduct that from my taxes.
This, after all, is what Occidental Petroleum has done. It bought tax credits from less profitable companies. So have LTV, Burlington Northern and lots of other profitable corporations. Other companies are following suit. This is nothing but a bookkeeping maneuver that does wonders for the companies involved but adds nothing to production and takes money from the treasury. No matter. The principle is terrific.
It is in this spirit that I am looking for some kids. Someone with lots of children could transfer some of them to me (only on paper, of course) and then I could deduct them from my taxes. I am not sure if I also could deduct the cost of, say, child care for the children I do not have, but I know that someone in the Reagan administration will find that suggestion so amoral, so selfish, that the bill will be drafted overnight. Any administration that can lay off workers without pay and call it a furlough is capable of anything.
With the passage of education tax credits, people could buy private school tuition for children they do not have and deduct it from their taxes. They could send these kids to doctors they do not need (or have) and maybe send them away to camp in the summer and, if there is any justice in this world, deduct that, too. People without children could deduct braces and allergy shots and maybe also the cost of gas for the car pools they are not in. If they do this, though, I think they should have to get up early anyway and come to work in a foul mood.
Married persons could sell their spouses to people who need one for tax purposes only. This way, some people could have a different spouse every year, thereby satisfying an urge for novelty and, at the same time, keeping legal fees to a minimum. (I am not sure if imaginary divorces from imaginary spouses should be deductible. I have an imaginary committee studying this.)
I think people who rent apartments and can't deduct the interest on mortgages ought to be able to buy some interest payments. The same holds for offices in homes. People who don't have one can buy someone else's and then deduct the cost of not having one. People with large auto-repair bills ought to be able to sell them to people with no bills (or maybe no cars) and the same holds for plumbing costs, appliance repairs and visits to a shrink.
In fact, in the best of all possible worlds, people ought to be able to transfer pain, suffering and guilt -- especially guilt. (I propose a guilt depletion allowance from which I will become very rich.) The same holds for angst, neurosis, depression, acne and the heartbreak of psoriasis.
There is something wonderfully egalitarian about this whole scheme, even though it means goodbye to rough-and-tumble capitalism, free enterprise and all of that. The Reagan people seem to believe in balance -- in spreading, if not the wealth, then at least the tax credits. They stumbled on a principle of equity that might be the beginning of something if applied across the board. They call it Reagonomics. Karl Marx called it something else.