Fair Remedy For Taxing Headaches

From Tampa Bay Online

If we didn't know better, the extravagant (and alarmingly routine) mea culpa episodes conducted by various nominees to top White House jobs would make us think all those bright bananas mistook Steve Martin for H&R Block.

I mean, here come Tim Geithner, the smart guy from the New York federal reserve bank; Tom Daschle, the former U.S. Senate majority leader; and Nancy Killefer, a Clinton-administration official, all seeking cabinet-level assignments, all admitting past tax-paying lapses and all pretty much applying the punch line from Martin's how-to-make-a-million-dollars-and-not-pay-taxes shtick: “I forgot.”

About that. Delivered while wearing a white suit, a banjo and an arrow-through-the-head prop, the bit is your basic laugh-riot classic. Delivered to a collection of news media microphones ... not so much.

Still, President Obama got one of the three successfully through to confirmation, which, in some circles, constitutes success.

FairTax: Homerun Derby
Obama probably would have gotten all his nominees confirmed if only Congress had long ago heeded the wisdom of the persistent prophet from Gwinnett County, Ga., Rep. John Linder, a Republican.

Linder champions an overhaul of federal tax collections that is as radical as it is sensible: Replace virtually all federal taxes with a levy on retail consumption. Yes, we're talking about the so-called “FairTax,” but this time for reasons besides what its adoption would accomplish on behalf of American productivity, income growth and global competitive edge. (Briefly: breathtaking explosiveness.)

Even as Congress debates tinkering — again — at the edges, l'affaire des denommes dramatically exposes the tax code's unnecessarily Byzantine structure. Its design encourages, even facilitates, cheating.

The transgressions committed by Geithner, Daschle and Killefer are neither novel nor especially nefarious. A house painter tells me he declares the first $50,000 of income; after that, he's off the books. The lawn service guy suggests he would accept less for his services if he was paid in cash. And who asks for the babysitter's Social Security number?

No More Tax Cheats

The FairTax stops all that, and more. Washington's interest in your income, in all its forms — even free limousine service — ends. (Notably, a “flat tax” would preserve that opportunity to chisel.)

Instead, the feds collect when you spend. Hire all the workers you can afford, and, because you're not footing payroll taxes or retaining an accountant, you can employ more. Start a business; you won't pay a dime in self-employment tax.

As unhesitating co-sponsors of the bill, Pasco's representatives in Congress, Republicans Gus Bilirakis and Ginny Brown-Waite, have endorsed its multiple benefits. Its genius was never more evident. Had America gone to a consumption tax the first (or second, or third) time Linder introduced it, in 1999, Obama's Tax Cheat Trio would have sailed, unblemished, to confirmation.

Imagine. Republicans staking out a position beneficial to Democrats. Well, and with apologies to Steve Martin — excuuuuuuse me — they're Americans, too.

 

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