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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

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"If it moves, tax it": the back story

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Tuesday, 25 August 2009 at 06:28 pm
Next on the Catch-Up Service, a half-familiar quotation from Irwin Stelzer in an article in The Daily Telegraph, 12 August. He attributes it to Ronald Reagan, describing the attitude of previous governments towards the economy:

"If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidise it."

It is a great quotation, but is it genuine? It seems so (Reagan, 1986) but it has a history. Check out this fascinating account by the incomparable Barry Popik:

During World War II, the armed forces had a similarly constructed saying: “If it moves, salute it. If it doesn’t move, pick it up. If it’s too big to pick up, paint it.”

In 1952, there was this saying: “If it moves, control it; if you cannot control it, tax it, if you cannot tax it, subsidize it.”

In 1967, there was this saying: “If it moves, tax it; if you can’t tax it, control it; if you can’t control it, give it a million dollars.”

In the 1970s, New Orleans Mayor “Moon” Landrieu said this: “We tax everything that moves, and everything that stands still, and if it moves, we tax it again.”


jimfred wrote:
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 at 06:30 am (UTC)
A few years ago,I saw a very flash new car,parked illegally on the zig zag markings of a pedestrian crossing,outside Pentonville prison.
The car had a sticker saying,"Born Free,Taxed to Death".
I assumed the driver was in the prison,visiting.
If the car was there as a getaway vehicle,it was a little bit conspicuous.
Unless it was the chancellor,getting some advice from a dodgy accountant who was "banged up".

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