The Return Of The Flat Tax

Perry is backing a flat tax, but, true to form, hasn't yet released many details of his plan. Alex Altman claims that Perry is "the highest-profile presidential contender in history to hook his Oval Office hopes to the flat tax":

The flat tax has multiple variations, but the basic idea is to replace the progressive scale A20792b12c372eb51b28d8_mpresently in use with a single, fixed rate and jettison deductions, credits and taxes on income accrued through investment. Since being popularized by a pair of Stanford economists in the early 1980s, the flat tax has intermittently surfaced in presidential campaigns, often as a way for second-tier candidates to capitalize on frustration with the byzantine tax structure by urging an uncluttered fix.

Steve Forbes’ 1996 presidential bid is a famous example of this phenomenon, but not all the candidates who used the flat or fair tax as a springboard have been conservative — as Steve Kornacki notes, Jerry Brown harnessed its appeal to great effect in the 1992 Democratic primary, and in the Senate Arlen Specter was a recent proponent.

And my sympathy for it lies primarily in its simplicity. There is a direct relationship between the complexity of the tax code and corruption. The rich can afford accountants to keep their taxes low – shifting money and valuables around in myriad ways. The people doing that kind of work could actually be doing something productive. I'm leerier today of that kind of flatness because of its regressivity in an era of spiraling inequality. But a progressive tax system can also be far, far, far simpler than what we have today.

I remain baffled by the Obama administration's inability to seize tax simplification as an issue. Until they do, the GOP will retain an edge. And the lobbyist hordes will keep feasting.