Looking back, 2016 clearly was the best year, though entirely because of things that happened overseas (the Brits vote for Brexit, Brazil adopting spending caps, abolition of the income tax in Antigua, and Switzerland’s rejection of a basic income).
What about this year?
Sadly, there’s not much to cheer about. Here’s the meager list.
Amendment 73 rejected in Colorado – As part of a plan to expand the burden of government (for the children!), the left wanted to gut the state’s flat tax and replace it with a so-called progressive tax. Fortunately, voters realized that giving politicians the power to tax the rich at higher rates would also mean giving them the power to tax everyone at higher rates. The proposal was defeated by 11 percentage points.
Deregulation – The Administration’s record is certainly far from perfect on regulatory issues. But big-picture measures of the regulatory burden indicate that the overall trend is positive. Easing dangerous Obama-era car mileage rules may be the best step that’s been taken.
Positive trends – I’m having to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but I suppose a drop in support for bad ideas has to count as good news, right? On that basis, I’m encouraged that the notion of universal government handouts became less popular in 2018. Likewise, I’m glad that there’s so much opposition to the carbon tax that some supporters of that new levy are willing to throw in the towel.
Now let’s look at the bad news.
Here are the worst developments of 2018.
Aggressive protectionism – It’s no secret that Trump is a protectionist, but he was mostly noise and bluster in 2017. Sadly, bad rhetoric became bad policy in 2018. And, just as many predicted, Trump’s trade taxes on American consumers are leading other nations to impose taxes on American exporters.
The Zimbabwe-ization of South Africa – My trip to South Africa was organized to help educate people about the danger of Zimbabwe-style land confiscation. Sadly, lawmakers in that country ignore me just as much as politicians in the United States ignore me. The government is moving forward with uncompensated land seizures, a policy that will lead to very grim results for all South Africans.
More government spending – Ever since the brief period of fiscal discipline that occurred when the Tea Party had some influence, the budget news has been bad. Trump is totally unserious about controlling the burden of government spending and even routinely rolls over for new increases on top of all the previously legislated increases.
The good news is that this bad news is not as bad as it was in 2015 when we got a bunch of bad policies, including resuscitation of the corrupt Export-Import Bank, another Supreme Court Obamacare farce, expanded IMF bailout authority, and busted spending caps.
I’ll close by sharing my most-read (or, to be technically accurate, most-clicked on) columns of 2018.
- In first place is my piece explaining why restricting the state and local tax deduction was an important victory.
- Second place is my column (and accompanying poll) asking which state will be the first to suffer a fiscal collapse.
- And the third place article is my analysis of how rich nations can become poor nations with bad policy.
For what it’s worth, my fourth-most read column in 2018 was a piece from 2015about political and philosophical quizzes. And the fifth-most read article was some 2012 satire about using two cows to describe systems of government.
I guess those two pieces are oldies but goodies.
Now for the columns that didn’t generate many clicks.
- My worst-performing column was about how DC insiders manipulate so-called tax extenders to line their own pockets.
- Next on the least-popular list was a piece that looked at proposals to make taxpayers subsidize wages.
- And the next-to-next-to-last article explained how expanding the IMF would increase the risk of bailouts and bad policy.
The other noteworthy thing about 2018 is that I posted my 5,000th column back in July.