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Globalization 3.0: The Napsterization of Sales Tax

Theworldisflat_2In our collective rush to find the lowest price for things we purchase, otherwise well-intentioned consumers might find these savings come at a terrible cost. This week Thomas Friedman publishes "The World Is Flat" (also featured in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine) and asks if globalization has made it possible for someone anywhere on earth to do your job, more cheaply, can Americans possibly rise to the challenge?

And after you read what Friedman has to say, what happens when we spend more and more of our increasingly scarce discretionary income on Chinese imports (registration required) we buy over the Internet? Is it our problem when police can no longer afford to provide insurance coverage for officers who are hurt when pursuing felons while they are off duty? Is it our fault when airports cut back operations and restrict the flow of commerce in and out of our cities?

The avoidance of sales tax is a much larger issue than the loss of income to the music, motion picture, and publishing industries combined. Yet without an organization as focused and free of political infighting as the RIAA to provide stewardship, the average citizen is left in the dark. 

The organization that is supposed to be pursuing this is the Streamlined Sales Tax Project. I'm hardly filled with confidence when I see the last news update to their site appears to be November 12, 2002. Maybe they should be posting this week's news that Ohio stands to lose $597 million in sales tax this year because less than 1% of residents are reporting purchases made over the Internet. There's no shortage of bad news that is coming in from all over the country.

Y2K fear-mongers used to scare us with stories of everything coming to a halt at the stroke of midnight. Without the political will to pursue an efficient sales tax policy, our lifestyle will end not with a bang, but with the whimper of our infrastructure gradually, invisibly rotting from the inside.

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