Our Tax Code: The Fustercluck From Which Everything Rancid Crawls

William F. Buckley proposed a simple tax reform in 1973. The language barrier that separates people like Buckley from that odd species we call Congress prevented his thoughts from finding fertile soil.  And in the 40 years between, the tax code has become only murkier and more dangerous.


“Our tax laws were,” Buckley wrote in Four Reforms: A Guide for the Seventies, “designed historically to raise revenue for the operations of government.”  He continues:

Along the way the operations of government inflated in purpose and ambition, evolving from modest Jeffersonian instruments for effecting the safety of the state into the gargantuan instruments of the social perfectionists.

He points out that attempts to cure a social ill through tax code always and everywhere exacerbates the ill and sprouts new seedlings of destruction. For example, the ill-fated luxury tax of the 1990s, which intended to punish conspicuous consumers who spent their hard-earned dollars on boats, planes, and furs, ended up destroying several American industries and displacing tens of thousands of not-so-wealthy workers. The rich, meanwhile, could import luxury items from Latin America, Asia, and Europe, often cheaper than their American equivalent even before the luxury tax took effect.

Here’s a little history of how we got here, and a reiteration of Buckley’s modest proposal of 1973.

At the height Roosevelt’s New Deal, only about 3 million Americans paid any income tax at all. But World War II changed all that. To feed the war machine, Congress broadened the tax base to about 42 million Americans, most of whom viewed their new tax burden as a) worthwhile, b) reasonable, and c) temporary. Most Americans had one or more family members fighting in Europe or the Pacific, and paying a portion of their income to fund the war effort was something of an honor. At the time, there was but a single tax rate paid by all Americans, married or single.

When the war ended, some states created “community property” laws which stated that wives were entitled to half the husband’s income. This led to a change in the tax law which allowed men to deduct alimony payments, which led couples to divorce for the tax advantage, which created scandals as more couples lived openly in sin.

So Congress amended the law again to allow married couples to pay separate taxes which tended to drop them a few rungs on the tax ladder, reducing their overall tax rate.  This caused overall government revenue to drop about the time General Marshall’s plan to rebuild Europe needed funding.

In 1951 then created the unmarried head-of-household allowing single working parents to pay taxes at a lower rate, as if they had a spouse who didn’t work. This perturbed the single taxpayers who wrote the Congressmen (they were almost all men then). 

As Buckley points out, at this point it should have become clear to anyone that “to favor somebody is almost necessarily to discriminate against somebody else.”

The single taxpayer complaints led to more reforms in 1969. Now, single taxpayers could not pay more than 20 percent more than a married taxpayer in the same bracket.  (Confused yet?)  Now, dual-income households in which both husband and wife worked were furious that they were paying more taxes than single people in the same tax bracket. Congress responded, but now couples with children complained that they were paying the same amount as childless couples, discouraging family creation and giving the childless unfair economic advantage.

And on we go, until in the latest fiscal cliff tax cut/increase/pork festival, NASCAR owner get special tax advantage to compensate for their inability to turn right.

So the tax code is now heavier than health man can bench press, the IRS cannot explain what you should pay, and businesses spend as much on tax avoidance as they do on research and development.

It’s time to stop the madness.

While some believe the way to drum up broad support for change is to propose radical elimination of the income tax altogether, scientific investigations of political change reveal that people prefer incremental and evolutionary changes to revolutionary changes.  Therefore, I won’t endorse the Fair Tax, even though I like it better than what Buckley proposed.

His proposal?  A simple flat rate of 15% that applies to all income. No exemptions, no deductions, no brackets.

The flat tax should appeal to Warren Buffett and his ilk, because he and his secretary would pay the same damn rate for a change.  The formula, which I’ve blogged about many times, is stupidly simply: what did you make? Multiply by .15. Send it in. 

True, this would be a tax increase for many people. Sorry. We have a $16 trillion+ national debt to pay down.  When some future president phones into Dave Ramsey to yell “We’re Debt Free!” we can look at reducing the rate.

The biggest social problem this proposal creates is the displacement of thousands of tax workers at H&R Block, Intuit, and the IRS.

I think we can deal with that, though.

The GOP is to Public Relations What Evel Knievel Was to Motorcycle Safety

evel-knievel-crash I live in a very hilly area. Yet I’m still alive. Explain that.

Maybe that’s why I’m a lower-case “r” republican and not an upper-case one.

Republicans seem to feel every hill is worth dying on. 

What else could explain the House’s rejection of a silly payroll tax cut extension followed by a doubly-damaging capitulation?

By “silly,” I mean ill-advised, inconsequential, irrational, and fiscally irresponsible.  The Senate’s two-month extension of the Social Security tax cut represents the worst of Washington.

And the GOP House just signed off on it, caving to pressure from the White House and media.

In the chess match of public relations, the extension was golden. The press trumpeted it as a victory for the little guy that only the most cynical, hateful bastards on earth could oppose.

The GOP could have eked out a tiny PR win by denouncing the Senate’s cynicism in passing a meaningless and destructive bill by lying to people about its benefits.  Then quietly pass the stupid thing, and leave on Christmas break.

Instead, the House GOP stepped up to the microphone and announced, “Well, we are cynical, hateful bastards, and we’d be happy to oppose it!”

Having taken the black eye for opposing a tax cut for the little guy, the GOP could have shown some muscle by sticking it out.  They could have said, “The Constitution places power to tax and spend with the House, Mr. President. You might be willing to compromise your principles, but we are not.” 

Sure, the press would call them cynical, hateful bastards.  But they’d at least be resolute, firm,and committed.

But they caved.  The pressure got to be too much.  Or Christmas spirit overwhelmed them. 

One way or another, the House Republicans took a black eye and got nothing for it.

Yes, the Tea Party’s core principles are Constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets.  This extension fails the middle one.

But we have a much longer vision than two months.  Our goal is to stop and reverse the illicit growth of government power, growth that requires fiscal irresponsibility,and power that consumes human freedom. 

Our mission requires more than one election cycle. Dying on on this particular hill didn’t advance our fight—it set us back.

Moral of the story: win every battle you fight, but don’t fight any battle unless it’s a strategic necessity. 

GOP: Knock Off the Symbolic Crap

Just as in 2001, some Republicans are falling for Democrat mind games.  In 2001, it was the shared leadership arrangement in the Senate, even thought the GOP had the majority because of the VP tie-break.  This year, it’s beginning with “bi-partisan” seating at the State of the Union address.

I have one message for Republicans:  Knock it the hell off.

When a Democrat offers to reach across the aisle, with very few exceptions, it’s to poison a Republican.  In 2001, Democrats convinced Republicans to thwart the will of the people by letting the minority party run the show.  In 2011, Democrats want the same thing.

On November 2, 2010, the American people handed the Democrats their own behinds on a silver platter.  The left’s embarrassment and humiliation from that election has grown into a rage that resulted in last week’s failed attempt to blame conservatives for Jarod Lee Loughner’s murderous rampage in Tucson.

Having been discredited and humiliated in that failed attempt at propaganda, the left now wants to nullify the psychological effect of the SOTU seating chart.  Two House GOP leaders—Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy—told Politico that they’re on board with this symbolic manure.  Let’s tell them what we think of their idiotic plan to nullify the visuals of November 2.

Eric Cantor’s phone number:  804.747-4073

Kevin McCarthy’s phone:  (202) 225-2915

Doug Powers (on Michelle Malkin’s blog) says it’ll all end with a pajama party

Remember, that other party is the one libeling conservatives, accusing us of being accessories to murder. 

The 112th

Four years after Nancy Pelosi swore to end deficit spending, a new Congress, elected by a grassroots surge, took office today. Our work has just begun.

But we have the momentum.

Here’s how we need to deal with Congress:

1.  We let them know what’s important to us.

2.  We defend them—individually and collectively—when they do the right thing.

3.  We remind them of their purpose, promises, and limitations when they stray.

Of these, I believe the second point the most important.

We have asked this Congress to cut spending, to end programs, and to take away unjust privileges.  I think they’ll do just that.  Maybe they won’t move as quickly or as boldly as we’d like, but they’ll begin undoing what previous Congresses have done.

And people will scream.

The way big government types get and keep power is by taking money from some (including future generations) and bribing people.  That’s essentially what Obama’s beloved “redistributive justice” means: steal from strangers and give to—or buy—friends.

Those who’ve benefited from this theft ring will howl when Congress cuts off their funds. The new Republican House will be accused of starving children, killing the elderly, and sentencing the sick to death.

It’s our job—those of us who took to the streets in 2009—to stand by our representatives who try to stop this multi-generational theft.  It’s our job to praise, to promote, to support brave members of Congress who do brave things.


The Courage of Roy Blunt

When  you vote for a candidate for high office, sometimes you do so with fingers crossed. You just don’t know how they’ll handle the new responsibilities.  Will they succumb to pressure and influence?  Or will they remain true?

Luckily for us, Senator-elect Roy Blunt showed his courage in a recent Wall Street Journal article about the Tea Party and the GOP.

In a year when voters overwhelming demanded changes to business as usual in Washington, Roy Blunt showed he has the rectitude to stand strong for the tried and true practices of obfuscation, political double-speak, and deflection.

Take earmarks.  The Tea Party’s Contract From America demanded that Congress ban earmarks from deficit budgets and require full disclosure for earmarks at all other times.  Will Roy Blunt bow to the fanatical will of the people by swearing off earmarks?

Hell, no.  For that matter, to demonstrate his brave adherence to the Washington party line, Roy won’t even give a firm answer to the question.  In an era when meaning what you say and saying what you mean is treasured, Senator-elect Blunt is unafraid to dodge the earmark question by pointing out that Ron Paul requests many earmarks for his district in Texas. From WSJ:

"Rand [Paul] doesn't agree with his dad on that. His dad is a leading advocate of earmarks on this side of the building. I'll let the Pauls work that out and then I'll see where they come down." We share a laugh over that.

Now that’s spine. Encourage a little domestic dispute to determine the fate of earmarks.

Any run-of-the-mill Tea Party politician might have given the simple, easy answer.  For example, “You know, I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to requesting earmarks.  But with the trillions in debt and with the new understanding that our spending is destroying America’s future, I’m going to support the tea party’s Contract and co-sponsor legislation severely curtailing earmarks.  In fact, I think we should ban them altogether from budgets with a projected deficit.”

Yes, an answer like that is cowardly.  It panders to the sentiments of 60 percent of  the people who sent Roy to Washington.  And such a straightforward answer wimpishly admits complicity in the monstrous national debt. Who wants leaders to take responsibility for their actions?  

Congratulations to Roy Blunt for showing the testicularity to pretend the Tea Party never happened.