Republicans have not quite succeeded in persuading most Americans that handing over more of the country’s wealth to the already wealthy is a great idea.  Rick Perry has a new tax plan which can be summarized as “More money for the rich.”  They get their top rate lowered from 35% to 20%, no more capital gains tax, no taxes on dividends, no more estate tax.  Because, you know, they’re very concerned about the plight of the top 1%, whose income has soared under Reaganism and who now get all the increased wealth from greater productivity.  The poor dears need even more money.

But “more money for the rich” only appeals to people who really like Ayn Rand, so they have to add bullshit to sell the plan.  The preferred type of bullshit is “simplification”.  (Including the magic word “flat”.  Flatness sounds good, right?  Much better than “More money for the rich” which is what it means.)

Perry’s plan actually complicates the tax code.  He claims you can do your taxes on a post card, but he actually proposes to make his flat tax optional.  That is, he retains the entire tax code and adds more on top.  Seriously, what are you going to do under such a system?  You’re going to have to do your taxes twice so you can pick the lower figure.  Perry is asking you to do more work and hoping that you won’t notice because he said the word “simplified”.

The whole “simplified” shtick is absurd.  No one likes to do their taxes, but for the vast majority of people it takes no more than an evening.  If your income is under $30K or so, you can get free software from TurboTax to pretty much do it all for you.  If it’s over $30K you can get the same software for $35.  If your income is high enough that you actually have to worry about all the arcana of taxation, then you have an accountant.

(And before I get aggrieved mail, let me note that I’ve done the taxes for a small business with, over the course of a year, dozens of employees.  By hand; this was before the personal computer era.  It’s not that hard, you could hire a teenager to do it.  Which in fact I was.  Most of it is stuff you should probably be doing already even if there were no taxes– keeping the books, keeping track of expenses.)

(If you’re really serious about simplifying the tax code– then be honest.  What that means, basically, is eliminating special rules, and that comes down to eliminating somebody’s tax break, or introducing loopholes for clever accountants.  You could greatly simplify the 1040 for the vast majority of Americans by eliminating deductions (i.e. tax breaks) for mortgage interest, property tax, and charitable contributions.  Note that Perry proposes to keep those things, because they’re popular!  Also note that when Obama proposes to remove tax breaks, Republicans start squawking.  All those tax breaks have a constituency.)

Republicans seem to hate the idea that those who have more should pay more.  Well, we have freedom of religion, so they’re entitled to their worship of the rich, but when they mean “the rich should pay less and the rest of you should pay more”, let them say so and see if that wins them elections.  Instead they try to hide the idea by pretending that a progressive tax is difficult.  It’s not dificult.  You have to take two minutes to look up the tax amount in a table, or approximately no minutes to let your tax program calculate it.  The complexity of the tax code is not due to the fact that it has several tax brackets.  It should really have more at the upper end.

When you hear “flat tax”, please adjust your bullshit filter to read “more taxes for the poor and middle class”.  Perry’s 20% tax rate, for instance, is higher than today’s rate for incomes up to $34,500.   It’s just mathematics: for the rich to pay much less and maintain the government’s revenue (as Perry promises), everyone else must pay more.  That’s Rick Perry’s plan for the 99% in a time of economic recession with 9% unemployment. 

 

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