If we are equals, why aren’t our taxes?

The economic stimulus bill being rushed through the Senate right now focuses more on tax cuts than the House version of the bill, which promotes federal spending.  Why are the Republicans so obsessed with tax cuts?  Because many of the wealthy in this country object to having to pay higher taxes than the middle class.  At some point in the past, when the liberals controlled the government, it was decided that the wealthy could afford to pay more of their income in taxes than the middle class, so the tax rate for the wealthy was raised to 50 percent.

That inequity still persists, although the highest tax brackets are no longer taxed at the 50 percent level.  Another item that was to be included in the stimulus package was relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax, the liberals attempt to stop the wealthy from using various tax loopholes to escape from the high tax burden.  All this talk about taxes is boring as sin, but when you are talking about a pile of paper over 5 feet high, of letter sized pages, typed single space, who could avoid being bored?  That is the size of the United States tax code.  No one knows the whole thing, and there are people whose lives revolve around a few inches of that stack.  Armies of people work to prevent companies and individuals from paying more than they absolutely have to.

Wouldn’t it make sense to throw that pile of paper away, and replace it with a single, flat tax rate, which applies only to individuals, and represents the portion of the Gross Domestic Product that it costs to operate the government?  If we want to modify behavior, call it a fine or fee, or a subsidy, but leave it out of the tax code.  This is where the complexity has come from, trying to change behaviors.  If the government doesn’t want people doing something, they put a tax on it.  Conversely, if the government wants to encourage something, they create a tax break for it.  All of this leads to thousands of pages of legalese, which usually doesn’t go away when the activity it addresses does.

If we went to a flat tax rate, and did away with all the shelters, deductions, and other loopholes, so that everyone paid the same rate, we could get by with a tax rate of about 17 or 18 percent.  That is the proportion of the G.D.P. that the government has spent every year for some time.  This slightly higher than what most middle class people are paying, and a lot lower than what the higher tax brackets face.  If we are equal before the law, why can’t we be equal before the I.R.S.?


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