FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Secrets of the Flat Tax

by DEAN BAKER

With Herman Cain soaring to the top of the Republican pack on the basis of his 9-9-9 plan, a flat tax is once again at the center of public debate. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and some days Mitt Romney, are always spouting the virtues of a tax system that is “simpler, flatter, and fairer.”

While simplicity is generally desirable in a tax code, it has nothing to do with the tax code being flat. And being flat would be the opposite of being fair, unless people think it is unfair that they don’t pay more taxes.

Confusing a simple tax code with a flat tax is a cheap political stunt. The number of tax brackets doesn’t affect simplicity at all. Regardless of the number of brackets, there is only one calculation needed. The instruction is simple. It looks like this: “pay $1,000, plus 15 percent of income above $50,000.” You can have a flat tax or 100 tax brackets, it is the same formula. Even a Republican presidential candidate can figure it out.

The other part of the story is that the flat tax means a large tax cut for rich people. Every economist who has examined flat tax proposals over the years comes to that same conclusion: A flat tax means the rich pay less.

And if the rich pay less and we raise the same amount of money, then someone else has to pay more. And the someone in this story is the middle class. It really is that simple.

The flat taxers like to run around with Lake Wobegone economics where we are all going to pay less and still have the same amount of money, but the world doesn’t work that way. We have tried reducing taxes to raise revenue. People remember Reagan’s tax cuts and the large deficits they led to. They remember Bush’s tax cuts and the large deficits they led to.

No one is going to fall for this trick yet again. When we cut taxes on the rich, we get less money and the rest of us will have to make up the shortfall.

For middle-class people, a flat tax means that they will have to pay more taxes. If people think it would be fairer that they pay higher taxes, then the Republican Party has the presidential candidates for you.

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of False Profits: Recovering from the Bubble Economy . He also has a blog, ” Beat the Press ,” where he discusses the media’s coverage of economic issues.

This article originally appeared on Debate Club (U.S. News & World Report).

Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch

One of the Greatest Descriptions of Farm Work Ever Written— Don’t miss Frank Bardacke’s marvelous account from the California fields. ALSO Linn Washington Jr. on the “Black Backlash Against Obama.”

Order your subscription today and get
CounterPunch by email for only $35 per year.

Dean Baker is a macroeconomist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He previously worked as a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute and an assistant professor at Bucknell University.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
Susan Babbitt
Don’t Raise Liberalism From the Dead (If It is Dead, Which It’s Not)
Uri Avnery
Palestine’s Nelson Mandela
Fred Nagel
It’s “Deep State” Time Again
John Feffer
The Hunger President
Stephen Cooper
Nothing is Fair About Alabama’s “Fair Justice Act”
Jack Swallow
Why Science Should Be Political
Chuck Collins
Congrats, Graduates! Here’s Your Diploma and Debt
Aidan O'Brien
While God Blesses America, Prometheus Protects Syria, Russia and North Korea 
Patrick Hiller
Get Real About Preventing War
David Rosen
Fiction, Fake News and Trump’s Sexual Politics
Evan Jones
Macron of France: Chauncey Gardiner for President!
David Macaray
Adventures in Labor Contract Language
Ron Jacobs
The Music Never Stopped
Kim Scipes
Black Subjugation in America
Sean Stinson
MOAB: More Obama and Bush
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Minute Musings: On Why the United States Should Launch a Tomahawk Strike on Puerto Rico
Tom Clifford
The Return of “Mein Kampf” … in Japan
Todd Larsen
Concerned About Climate Change? Change Where You Bank!
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Brexit: Britain’s Opening to China?
John Hutchison
Everything Old is New Again: a Brief Retrospectus on Korea and the Cold War
Michael Brenner
The Ghost in the Dream Machine
Yves Engler
The Military Occupation of Haiti
Christopher Brauchli
Guardians of Lies
James Preece
How Labour Can Win the Snap Elections
Cesar Chelala
Preventing Disabilities in the Elderly
Sam Gordon
From We Shall Overcome to Where Have all the Flowers Gone?
Charles Thomson
It’s Still Not Too Late to Deserve Your CBE, Chris Ofili
Louis Proyect
Documentaries That Punch
Charles R. Larson
Review: Vivek Shanbhag’s “Ghachar Ghochar”
David Yearsley
Raiding the Tomb of Lubitsch
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail