Flat Tax Mania: Catch It!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 24 2011 3:59 PM

Flat Tax Mania: Catch It!

Was it only a week ago that I explained how Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan fit within the modern Republican tradition as regressive tax reform as campaign cure-all? That I mentioned the flat tax as a product of this process that had been supplanted by 9-9-9?

I spoke too soon. First, Rick Perry hinted that he'd be unveiling a flat tax -- an optional 20 percent tax with a $12,500 deduction. Then Steve Forbes, feeling a (well-earned) surge of relevance, endorsed Perry. And now Newt Gingrich comes onstage, giving the flat tax his approval as a Big Idea. Give people an option: The flat tax or their old, cruddy code. (This, too, is a Forbes idea.) Perry wants 20 percent? Ha, ha. Gingrich wants "15 percent or less."

This optional flat tax system will create a new personal deduction for every adult of $10,000 to $12,000 (double for married couple), which would be above the established poverty level at $40,000 to $48,000. The current $1,000 tax credit for each child age sixteen or younger would also apply, as would the current earned income tax credit (EITC).
An optional flat tax reform will be simple: tax returns can be done on one sheet of paper. Subtract from income a standard deduction and deductions for charity and home ownership, multiply the result by the fixed single rate of taxation of at most 15%, and the process is over.

The optional code idea really took off (insofar as an idea that wasn't enacted "took off") in the mid-aughts, after George W. Bush was re-elected, and Flat Taxers wanted their idea to be his big domestic legacy. What surprises me about both the Perry and Gingrich plans is that the deduction isn't means-tested. In 2005, Flat Taxers realized that their plan became somewhat progressive -- and better on revenue -- if people making above a certain income didn't get the deduction.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The Ludicrous Claims Women Are Pitched at “Egg Freezing Parties”

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM Syria’s “Moderate” Rebels Are Realizing That U.S. Airstrikes Help Bashar al-Assad, Not Them
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:43 AM “I Didn’t Want to Build the Next Twitter for Cats” Search funds are the quiet, dependable, risk-averse sibling to the startup. 
Oct. 1 2014 11:59 AM Ask a Homo: A Lesbian PDA FAQ
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 10:44 AM Everyone’s Favorite Bob’s Burgers Character Gets a Remix You Can Dance to
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM Watch a Crowd Go Wild When Steve Jobs Moves a Laptop in This 1999 Demonstration of WiFi
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 12:01 PM Rocky Snow
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.