Fear of the FairTax

Posted: Sep 11, 2007 9:35 PM
Fear of the FairTax

Perhaps you’ve noticed lately – it sure hasn’t escaped our attention – that the FairTax proposal (H.R. 25) is really creating quite a stir lately. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s endorsement of the FairTax brought him a second place finish in the Republican Iowa straw poll several weeks ago. No less than six Republican presidential candidates, and one Democrat, endorse the idea, and the GOP’s newest candidate, Fred Thompson, has said that he would sign the bill if it were passed by Congress.

Every single day more and more Americans are becoming familiar with the FairTax and H.R. 25, and they like what they see. They read the book, study the FairTax website and they want to know what they can do to bring this tax reform proposal to fruition. And every single day more and more powerful people inside the Beltway who make their livings off the present tax system become just a bit more concerned.

One of the great surprises since Congressman John Linder, the author of H.R. 25, and I wrote The FairTax Book was the tactic developed by opponents to demonize the proposal. Let’s be clear here. We weren’t surprised that opposition surfaced, we were just surprised at the methodology. After all, Washington is full of very highly-paid individuals who make their living, and a very comfortable one at that, gaming the present tax system.

Some of you may know that several years ago a law was passed granting a special tax benefit to one particular manufacturer of ceiling fans. In the process of putting that law on the books some K-Street lobbyist undoubtedly earned a handsome six-figure fee. By some estimates more than one-half of the people earning a living in Washington lobbying congress do so by requesting tax breaks for clients. Every one of these people could well be looking for a different way to earn a living were the FairTax to become law.

Additionally, every elected official in Washington has an advisor on staff whose duty it is to keep their congressman or senator up to speed on the latest tax legislation. Now here’s another group of people who will be cleaning up their resumes should the FairTax become a reality. Just what do you think they’re going to tell the boss when he asks them for an appraisal of this FairTax idea? Do you really expect them to talk themselves out of a nice job in Washington?

Then, of course, we have the tax “experts.” These are people who pontificate on a daily basis about the advantages and disadvantages that would accompany changes in our tax code. With the tax code reduced to the simplicity of the 123 pages of H.R. 25, these people would quickly have to become experts in some other field to keep their research and writing careers afloat.

To put it simply, not everyone would benefit from simplifying the method we use to fund our federal government, and those who would be hurt are on the attack in an effort to save their jobs or their personal policy fiefdoms. Clearly, it’s a no-holds barred war that has developed.

I’ve long had a great deal of respect for Bruce Bartlett. I’ve cited his commentary countless times on my radio show. Lately Bartlett has become perhaps the country’s most vitriolic opponent of the FairTax as evidenced by a series of recent columns in which he makes a weak attempt to tie the FairTax to Scientology. The best that Bartlett can come up with is that years before the FairTax was developed there was a group called Citizens for an Alternative Tax System that developed a plan for a national retail sales tax. The plan was wholly different from the FairTax in that it called for an exclusive, rather than an inclusive sales tax, it did not eliminate payroll taxes, it had no provision to rebate taxes paid on life’s essentials, and it left our corporate tax structure in place.

Bartlett’s FairTax-Scientology connection is so vaporous as to be absurd. Some Scientologist talked to some guy in Texas who dismissed him out of hand. Sometime later the guy in Texas, who was not a Scientologist, became involved with Leo Linbeck and Robert McNair; the fathers, if you will, of the FairTax movement. So … since some Scientologist once talked to a person now associated with the people who created the FairTax, that makes the FairTax a Scientologist plot. Neither Linbeck nor McNair have any connection whatsoever with Scientology, and Congressman John Linder, the author of H.R. 25, the FairTax Act, is an elder in the Presbyterian church. Me? Episcopalian.

Bartlett’s attacks on the FairTax smack of desperation. Does this plan upset him so much that he has to resort to such a weak attempt at guilt by association? His attacks on the FairTax don’t stop with the Scientology smear. Bartlett completely (intentionally?) mischaracterizes the FairTax prebate, the FairTax provision that insures that no American family would pay the FairTax on the basic necessities of life, by stating in two columns that the government would have to track individual family incomes to implement the prebate plan. A sixth-grader could read the bill or The FairTax Book and understand that the prebate is predicated on the size of the family, not the family income; yet Bartlett continues to insist that income must be tracked! Desparation, carelessness or ignorance?

Then there’s Bartlett’s refusal to acknowledge that the FairTax is to be quoted as an inclusive tax, as are the income taxes the FairTax is designed to replace. My guess is that during Bartlett’s time at the Treasury Department he insisted on quoting the income tax as inclusive. Why the refusal to quote the tax that seeks to replace the income tax the same way?

Bartlett is illustrating one basic truth about the FairTax. It is easy to demagogue. Has the FairTax so-alarmed advocates of big government that they actually have to resort to childish attacks such as this Scientology nonsense? You would think that if FairTax opponents had a choice they would rather base their attacks on the FairTax on solid and defensible criticisms or objections. Perhaps these attacks centered around the absurd notion that the FairTax is a part of some great Scientologist plot are more evidence of concern that the idea is catching on … an idea that could cost them a livelihood or render their intricate knowledge of the current tax code useless … than anything else.