If you ever wonder why so much borrowed money can go into leveraged buyouts at such high interest rates, consider this: Most of it is tax-deductible.
And if you wonder why Americans don't save more, consider that interest earned, even on piddling savings accounts at modest rates, is subject to income taxes.Take the idea a step further:
Untaxed money for leveraged buyouts tends to push up interest rates, simply because borrowers will pay higher rates; moreover, such borrowing may diminish funds available for more productive corporate uses.
Meanwhile, taxes on interest earned discourage savings, diminishing further the supply of capital that keeps business healthy. Additionally, lack of savings also worsens the conditions of the critically ill savings industry.
Why, therefore, does the United States follow such taxing policies? Aren't such policies contrary to the national interest?
John Wright, whose Wright Investors' Service company has more than $4 billion of customer money invested in securities, believes such policies cannot continue in place in defiance of reason and the national interest.
Angry that related policies also have been pursued at the wrong times in the past, he urges the incoming White House to exempt from taxable income the first $20,000 of money in taxpayer savings accounts at savings institutions.
Simultaneously, he would limit the amounts of debt that could be used in takeovers and leveraged buyouts, helping to slow the current financial drain on the nation's money supply.
The personal savings exemption would, among other things, provide a very broad-based increase in capital formation through greater savings, says Wright. But clearly, he adds, it would do much more.
It would, for example, reduce consumer spending proportionately - including that for imports - and it would provide an infusion of new deposits into illiquid savings and loans, thus avoiding higher taxpayer financed bailouts.
And finally, it would make more of the current money supply available at lower interest rates to finance corporate spending on modern cost-competitive industrial plants and equipment.
If all this can be accomplished, why not do it? Assuming the results are those foreseen by Wright, it might seem illogical not to proceed. But logic and reason do not always win out in politcal economics.
Wright, who founded and built his operation, based in Bridgeport, Conn., from a few employees to an influential international operation, recalls with considerable irritation a particular and very damaging economic policy error of the past.
Repeatedly, he points out, fears of inflation have caused monetary officials to constrain the U.S. monetary supply in the mistaken notion that inflation was threatened by the domestic economy.
It might have been true that there were too many U.S. dollars afloat, he says, but the reason why had little to do with an overactive domestic economy.
Those "dollars," he points out, were Eurodollars created abroad by European banks making loans denominated in dollars - beyond the regulation of American monetary officials.
What good did it do, he asks, to clamp down on the domestic economy when the problem was abroad?
And so a somewhat similar situation might now exist. When the United States needs savings, lower interest rates, less debt and more productive uses of funds, why does tax strategy frustrate the goal?