The Republican presidential debate earlier this week in Las Vegas was hardly one for the ages. Its most memorable moments were of adults arguing about inconsequential matters like neophyte high school debaters. Voters hoping for a glimpse into the substance of the candidates’ positions were left waiting for another day and another forum.
Well, less than one week later, we actually have some of that hoped-for substance. Candidate Rick Perry has come forward with a plan for a national flat tax to replace the cumbersome, complex, unfair and costly current income tax system that has plagued U.S. taxpayers for decades.
Taxes already have figured into the GOP campaigns. Virtually all the candidates have criticized the present tax system, and one — Herman Cain — has made tax reform the hallmark of his candidacy. However, unlike Cain’s “9-9-9” proposal, which combines reductions in income and corporate taxes with a new national sales tax, the flat tax proposed by Perry is simple, clear and straightforward. Most important, the Perry flat tax does not rely for its revenue on a new tax on top of the existing income tax.
Cain has ridden the public’s support for true tax reform to surge to the front of the GOP pack; but as witnessed by this week’s debate, his proposal remains difficult to explain and is not easily or uniformly understood.
Perry, of course, is not the first Republican presidential candidate to press for a flat tax. Most notably, Steve Forbes pushed the idea heavily during his two bids for the GOP nomination. Though he was unsuccessful in those campaigns, Forbes’s flat tax was well-received among conservatives, as a similar proposal had been several years earlier when then-Majority Leader Dick Armey advocated for such a plan in a series of debates held in cities across the country.
Not surprisingly, Forbes is supportive of Perry’s flat tax proposal. According to Yahoo! News, Forbes assisted Perry’s team in developing the idea, and called it the “most exciting tax plan since Reagan’s.”
America’s economy desperately needs a shot in the arm. The economic policies of the Obama administration clearly are not working, and tax hikes currently on the table likely will only slow our already weak recovery.
A flat tax would make our economy more competitive. It would encourage investment and provide an incentive for businesses to stay here rather than moving jobs and facilities overseas. And despite an oft-heard criticism of the flat tax that it would “unfairly” hit the lower and middle classes, The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis notes that exemptions would be incorporated to protect those on the lower economic rungs.
Perry’s proposal may not be enough to propel him into the GOP nomination. However, the fact that the Republican field finally has a candidate with a plan that clearly and positively would result in a tax system far more fair and far less complex than the current system is the best news yet to emerge from this primary season. Instead of the complexity of the “9-9-9” plan, we now have one as simple as “1-2-3.”
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He provides regular commentary to Daily Caller readers.