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


Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Oct. 17 2014 1:33 PM What Happened at Slate This Week?  Senior editor David Haglund shares what intrigued him at the magazine. 
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Space: The Next Generation
Oct. 19 2014 11:45 PM An All-Female Mission to Mars As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.