August 8, 2005

GOP: Party of Worn-out Ideas, Flat Tax

The Republican party loves to argue they are they party of ideas, vision and leadership, while the Democratic party is the party of No.

This is pure propaganda, the GOP is the party of worn-out ideas.

Michael Kinsley:
IT'S TRUE that the Republicans are the party of ideas and the Democrats are the party of reaction. Republicans set the agenda, and Democrats try to talk the country out of it.

But the Republican Party is hardly the Institute for Advanced Studies. The GOP uses ideas like seasonal sports equipment - taking them out when needed then scraping the mud off and stuffing them back into the garage until they are needed again.

Remember term limits? The flag-burning amendment? The balanced budget amendment? Each of these has had a moment or two of glory, when Republican politicians, conservative TV and radio hosts and The Wall Street Journal editorial page all decided simultaneously that implementing this idea was vital to the survival of Western civilization. Polls soon showed a majority of Americans agreeing with them. The idea seemed unstoppable. It had the winds of history behind it. And then the wind died and the idea went away.
The next worn-out idea the conservatives are pushing is the flat tax. Steve Forbes is out with a new book, Flat Tax Revolution: Using a Postcard to Abolish the IRS and this allies are already promoting the flat tax as the solution to all of our problems.
In his new book, Flat Tax Revolution (Regnery, a Human Events sister company), magazine publisher Steve Forbes again explains the virtues of fundamental tax reform. I hope someone at the tax commission is reading it.
Michael Kinsley continues:
The so-called flat tax is another hobby horse of the right that swept the nation, then vanished.

But someone forgot to tell Steve Forbes, the amiably blank-faced magazine heir who ran for president on the issue in 1996 and 2000. Now he has a book out, Flat Tax Revolution: Using a Postcard to Abolish the IRS. It's getting the full fair-and-balanced treatment - that is, unashamed open-throated puffery - on Fox News and other conservative outlets. So even though the idea looks pretty dead right now, a stake through its heart might still be prudent.

The flat tax is a game of three-card monte that deliberately confuses the issues of simplicity, fairness and the total tax burden on society. A simpler tax system would be a very good thing: good for the economy and good for all of our sanity. But progressive tax rates - higher taxes on higher incomes - aren't what make the current system so complicated. It's as easy to multiply by 40 percent as it is to multiply by 17 percent.

The complications come in defining and calculating income. Some of the complications are unavoidable, because people and companies have complicated affairs. The day may come when you can file your income tax on a post card (millions come close even today, with the sorta-simple 1040EZ), but that day will never arrive for Steve Forbes. As for the unnecessary complications, most of them were not put there by people or interest groups pushing for higher taxes and bigger government. Quite the opposite: The complications are mostly special rules for people or companies trying to lower their taxes. [..]

Mr. Forbes figures that almost everybody would pay less under his proposal than under the current system. And just to make sure, he would let you opt to calculate your taxes under current rules if you prefer. So everybody would pay less. That is swell. But it has nothing to do with the flatness or otherwise of the tax system.
Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly is right, Republicans do have big ideas but they are same big, dumb ideas they've been recycling for decades.

I am willing to bet, when the GOP loses their majorities in congress term limits, flag-burning amendment, and balanced-budget amendment will suddenly become very important to conservatives politicians again.


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