Desperate financial times call for desperate measures and certainly I’ve put forth some crazy ideas here in my Weblog, but people expect a touch of insanity from a private blog. On January 11, the New York Times ran an op-ed by Thomas Friedman in which he
1) discloses that his wife is a public school teacher (union member)
2) proposes that the government eliminate federal income tax on all schoolteachers
He says that “more talented people would choose these careers” if they didn’t have to pay any tax.
Were we to implement the tax break immediately, 100% of the benefits would flow to existing teachers because no new ones will be hired until September. Friedman implies that these existing teachers are untalented because they are paid so little (topping out at just over $100,000 per year after 22 years, or age 44 for the typical person who starts after college) I don’t think he believes that the untalented will do a better job without the distraction of paying federal income tax, so perhaps he is holding out hope for five years from now. In September 2009, a truly talented young person, hearing about this tax break, will decide to go to a teacher’s college to pursue a Bachelor’s in Education. In September 2013 that person will have graduated and be ready to work. Assuming an average career length of 30 years, by 2014 fully 3 percent of our schoolteachers will be the talented ones attracted by the tax break and taxpayers will only be wasting 97 percent of their money by paying the untalented legacy schoolteachers extra.
I’m kind of surprised that the Times ran this piece.
[Note that Friedman's idea is not totally at odds with my economic recovery plan, in which I propose eliminating public employee unions and teacher tenure.]