The Republican candidates for president are suddenly all hot to propose flat taxes. First Herman Cain, the pizza czar, came out with his loopy 999 plan. Now Rick Perry, humbled by his lack of debating skills and challenged to present something more serious than shooting coyotes while jogging, has come out with his own flat tax, which, if anything, is even more ludicrous than Cain’s. Pressed on the issue, the ever malleable Mitt Romney is backtracking on his previous disdain for the flat tax, pending how his tentative new position fares in the polls. Flat taxes sound appealing until someone does the math, which invariable shows that, no matter which version we’re talking about, a major part of the tax burden shifts from the rich to the middle class. We have a long-standing tradition of progressive taxation in this country, in which those with the most pay a higher percentage than those with less, on the theory that the rich don’t need as much of their income for necessities and can afford to part with a slightly higher portion of their wealth. The rich, as you might suspect, would prefer a different structure. The counter-argument that they and their congressional serfs dish up is that the rich need every dime so they can create jobs for the rest of us. This hasn’t happened while the wealthiest Americans have accrued more and more of the nation’s riches, but this inconvenient fact never stops the fiction from being repeated by the politicians who derive their campaign funding from the people who stand to gain the most from having their taxes paid by someone else.
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