The fair tax

Posted: Aug 12, 2005 12:00 AM

I've been dropping hints in previous columns about the FairTax proposal. Now the time is ripe to examine this idea.

 Why now? Because a definitive new book called "The FairTax Book" has hit the bookstores. Its authors are Neal Boortz, who may be the most articulate radio talk show host in America, and Rep. John Linder, a high-ranking Republican congressman from Georgia.

 Just as projected, the book already has soared to the top of's rankings. It's stirring up debate -- and support -- across the country.

 First, a look at the authors. Boortz isn't just another talking head who's written a book. Years ago in Atlanta, he doubled as a successful attorney and local talk radio host. He now enjoys national syndication of his morning show.

 I challenge readers who live in cities that carry his program to tune in. They'll quickly find Boortz less predictable and more intellectually challenging than many talk radio icons.

 Linder is a serious, studious man who has dedicated his life to public service. A dentist by training, he became a successful businessman while serving for years in the Georgia legislature and later in Congress.

 The pedigree of the authors alone virtually ensures success for "The FairTax Book." Before its shelf life is up, perhaps the public's reaction to the book will trigger something big -- a truly innovative policy idea getting serious consideration in Congress.

 That won't happen easily. Understanding the FairTax takes not only a mind, but an open one at that -- all the more reason to have Boortz and Linder spell things out and get the meaty discussions going.

 I can hardly do justice to the FairTax argument in this limited space, but here's an attempt at a quick summary:

 The FairTax would eliminate the federal income tax and the IRS along with it. Concurrently, it would establish a national sales tax on retail consumption.

 It would eliminate the current crazy quilt of indecipherable tax code regulations that bogs down businesses and befuddles families.

 It would make each of us the master of our own financial destinies. If you want to spend your money, that road is wide open to you with the FairTax. You'll certainly have more take-home pay.

 If you want to save instead, you won't be penalized for having rightfully earned your money in the first place.

 Readers can learn far more by picking up a copy of the book.

 Meanwhile, my job as a columnist is to interpret public opinion and gauge its effect on government policies. What impact might the FairTax book and the FairTax debate have on Congress and President Bush?

 Republicans and just about everybody else in the Washington establishment have been scared to touch this proposal in the past. The reason is simply that most of them are afraid of radical change of any sort.

 After all, there are plenty of big government bureaucracies as well as law and accounting firms that potentially could be wiped out by a fundamental simplification of the revenue system.

 Another impediment will be those who view a fair tax as some sort of right-wing attack on the nation's middle class and the poor. 

 But the book and its concept have arrived at a perfect time. The Republican-led Congress is viewed right now as having few, if any, new ideas. The president is taking a five-week vacation while Iraq simmers closer to a boiling point.

 I've witnessed and even been a modest player in some of those rare moments when a set of key political players seized on the nation's sense of frustration and turned it into a gain.

 The effort I participated in was led by a man named Newt Gingrich, and it was called the "Contract with America." Much of what Gingrich and his pals passed in the spring of 1995 had at one time been viewed as radical, too.

 Already critics of the FairTax are using sleight-of-hand tactics to shoot it down before it takes off. To confuse the public, they are using artificially low rates under the current tax system and comparing them favorably to the FairTax. 

 Doomsday scenarios to frighten those with lower incomes are another anti-FairTax move, even though the FairTax would provide rebates to families with modest incomes.

 We've yet to fully poll this issue because first it needs to get some much-deserved attention. But let me assure both Republicans and Democrats that once these red herrings are put aside and the public understands the FairTax, the train will be pulling out of the station. Our elected leaders can either be on it or get run over by it.

 In the meantime, watch as my prediction made months ago about the Boortz-Linder book comes to fruition.