'Fair Tax' would clean up D.C.
Have we reached the point where reform is summarily dismissed?
Considering the wide public sympathy for "cleaning up Washington," it's too bad that more attention hasn't been given to Mike Huckabee's "Fair Tax" proposal.
There is no perfectly constructed tax, and this idea, like all, has its shortcomings. But it also has huge benefits relevant to today's concerns and warrants much more serious attention than it's getting.
The proposal would get rid of all existing taxes the income tax on individuals and corporations, the payroll tax, the estate (death) tax and replace them with a single national retail sales tax. Fair Tax proponents say it would take a sales tax of 23 percent to meet current obligations.
Enactment of such a tax would be accompanied by repeal of the 16th Amendment, which was ratified in 1913 and made it possible for Congress to tax income. Economists can argue cause and effect; I'll just point out that as soon as we enacted the income tax, growth of the federal government took off and outstripped state and local spending as the major tax burden on citizens.
The income tax, with its 45,000 pages of tax code, is now simply a sandbox for politicians and lobbyists to play in. This is what we should focus on in all the discussion about special interests, lobbyist influence and runaway growth in government.
With a national retail sales tax to finance government, the tax burden on citizens would be totally transparent. Whenever you make a purchase and look at the sales slip, you'd see the 23 percent tax and know that's what you are paying for the federal government and its programs.
When a Sen. Smith or a Rep. Jones shepherds some new program through Congress and the president signs it into law, we'd see it at the cash register. When you ask the cashier why you are now paying 24 percent instead of 23 percent, you'll learn that you are paying for some wonderful new government program.
Most of those 45,000 pages of the tax code reflect special treatments and deductions for businesses, particular types of investment or behavior. This stuff got in there and regularly gets modified and changed as a result of various special interests working their magic.
The number of registered lobbyists in Washington doubled over the last eight years, from 17,000 to more than 34,000. A good chunk of their business is generated by proposed additions or changes to the tax code.
Ironically, the major reason the national retail sales tax gets so little attention is because insiders deem it politically impossible to achieve. Those who are part of the problem don't want the solution. The tax code is now one huge special-interest honey pot, and the swarming bees want to keep it that way.
Are we really at the point where major reforms are no longer possible in this country?
Republicans ought to get behind this "yes, we can" plan with beef.
Star Parker is a regular commentator on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News as well as author of "White Ghetto: How Middle Class America Reflects Inner City Decay." She can be contacted through http://www.urbancure.org/.