Thursday, September 19, 2013

Washington doldrums

Not much substantive posting here lately, I realize.  But as I stay busy teaching my fall class (which I try to rethink to a degree each time), while also working on various small-bore writing projects (e.g., short piece on the "economics of tax law" for an Oxford U. Press volume, and various talks and conference appearances to prepare for), there really hasn't been much going on in Washington that I find both interesting and within my bailiwick.

It has become truly boring to treat fundamental tax reform as if it remained an actual live topic.  As for the government shutdown and debt ceiling fights, while they're important, what new is there really to say about them?  Extortion and recklessness aren't pretty, but we already knew that.  And it is rather startling how hysterical some people get about the Affordable Care Act.  Whatever your bottom line about it, a sane person who is well-informed simply cannot view it so dramatically as many do on the right.  I mean, Medicare is a vastly bigger and far more "big government"-style program that would raise much larger philosophical, as well as constitutional, issues, if we really were determined to re-fight the 1930s through the 1960s.  This is just a Heritage-designed patch on problems with the private insurance system that are hard to ignore once one agrees that hospitals must offer emergency treatment.  (Getting rid of mandatory ER treatment was indeed the solution that Justice Scalia suggested in oral argument.)  But symbolic politics trumps all else.

The Supreme Court's DOMA decision was certainly both welcome and significant, and the IRS appears to be doing a good initial job of fleshing out what it means.  I might have posted on it had I been teaching it in my Tax I class right away, but as it happens we won't be getting to marriage and household issues for some weeks yet.  Plus others, such as Pat Cain, are more up on the implementation details that really matter.  And anyway I haven't generally envisioned this as a comprehensive current events blog.  For that I check Tax Prof like everyone else, although (like many others) I could certainly do without "The IRS Scandal, Day 3732."

Anyway, enough random observations for now.  I'll try to get back to more regular substantive posting.

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