Steve Forbes on the fiscal cliff: ‘Debate has centered around how much harm do we do the patient’

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WASHINGTON — With fiscal cliff negotiations in full swing, a handful of Republican lawmakers, led by Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert, and two-time Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes advocated for a fundamental overhaul of the tax code to a flat tax, Tuesday in front of the Capitol.

The White House has pushed for “fairness” throughout the fiscal cliff negotiations, saying the rich have to pay more. According to Gohmert, the fair tax is the essence of fairness, where those who make more, pay more, and those who make less, pay less.

“The president and administration officials have been yelling out, ‘Everyone should pay their fair share,'” Gohmert told reporters at the press conference in the House Triangle. “And we could not agree more. We agree completely with those in the administration, who say people should pay their fair share. And when you hear fair share, you should think flat tax.”

Gohmert said that there are many proposals by lawmakers pushing the principle of a flat tax, or a tax code that applies a single tax rate on all incomes, though they were not all in attendance at the presser Tuesday.

Forbes, a long time advocate for the flat tax, pointed out that around the world countries like Japan, Greece, Spain and Portugal, are raising taxes in the face of economic downturns, but to their detriment and America will feel similarly negative effects should lawmakers follow in their footsteps.

“This get-together couldn’t be more timely,” Forbes said, explaining that raising taxes now or anytime will damage the economy.

“So far on this whole cliff debate concerning taxes, the debate has centered around how much harm do we do the patient, how much poison do we give the patient of the economy,” Forbes said. “This is truly crazy. The emphasis should be on reducing barriers to growth not erecting new barriers or increasing existing barriers.”

To Forbes the most apparent barrier to growth is that Americans are “overtaxed,” the “biggest abomination” he said is the cumbersome and complicated income tax code.

“Our coming here today is to underscore that the only way to deal with this abomination of the federal income tax code is once and for all kill the beast, drive a stake through its heart, and hope it never rises again. Just start with a simple single rate flat tax,” Forbes said, explaining that it will create an environment conducive to economic growth, more taxpayers and more revenue.

“We are in trouble and this is a great time to make fundamental change,” Gohmert added.

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee stressed the complexity of the tax code, saying that just to the current tax system costs Americans $163 billion annually just to comply with the code. Further, he said, the complexity obscures the actual cost of government to Americans.

“We should all know exactly what it is that our federal government costs us. If we move toward a single rate tax system, everyone would be able to know,” Lee said noting that people who have a low or no federal tax burden often do not realize they are paying for the high cost of government in other facets of their lives.

Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess, also in attendance, noted that he will be giving the flat tax proposal (H.R. 1040) he has introduced the past several years to the White House and encourage them to take ideas from it.

“We can talk about other rates, we can talk about other things around the margins, but the concept of a single rate tax, I think is an idea whose time has come,” Burgess said.

New Mexico Republican Rep. Steve Pearce noted that the key is simplicity, the negotiation he said should be the percentage of single rate taxation, not on how to get more money from the rich which will not solve the revenue problem.

“The table is already laid, we just have to decide in the next 27 days what we are going to do about it,” Pearce said.

Georgia Republican Rep. Jack Kingston added that “we need to take the president for his word, and what the president has been saying is that he wants shared sacrifice and he wants fairness,” explaining America is without “fairness” now because of the tax code.

When asked about House Speaker John Boehner’s counterproposal to the White House, Gohmert said that leadership had not consulted them on proposal, encouraged transparency in the process and the adoption of the flat tax.

“I know what the Speaker is trying to do, he is trying to reach out. He has gotten his hands slapped each time he has reached out, so why not go back, fall back on principle? Everybody should pay the same rate,” Gohmert concluded. “You make more, you pay more, you make less you pay less, and we can get that done.”

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