Sunday, August 14, 2005
Michael Kinsley blasts Steve Forbes's new book, Flat Tax Revolution: Using a Postcard to Abolish the IRS in a Washington Post column, Steve Forbes's Flat Tire:
The so-called flat tax is another hobby horse of the right that swept the nation, then got swept away. 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 our sanity. But progressive tax rates -- higher taxes on higher incomes -- aren't what make the current system so complicated. It's as easy -- even easier -- to multiply by 40% as it is to multiply by 17%. Multiple tax rates require one extra calculation, but it's only subtraction. Even Republicans can easily do it -- or hire someone to do it for them, if necessary.