Fair Tax Blogburst: Dec. 20, 2006
I came across this article several weeks ago from one of my favorite columnists. Professor Williams has a very succinct way of conveying complicated topics and themes. If you are not a regular reader of his, you should at least check out his regular column at Townhall.
In this piece, Professor Williams tackles the Fair Tax, and as we would hope he describes some of the highlights and benefits that would be reaped upon its passage.
If enacted, the Fair Tax would eliminate: the federal individual income tax, alternative minimum tax, corporate and business taxes, capital gains tax, Social Security and Medicare taxes, and estate and gift taxes. These taxes would be replaced by a 23 percent sales tax on all goods and services sold at the retail level. The Fair Tax would be revenue-neutral in the sense that it would replace the revenue from current federal taxes; thus, it would change the way government is funded. Our current tax code is an abomination, and we desperately need that change. The time Americans spend simply complying with our tax code comes to 5.8 billion hours of record-keeping, filing taxes, consulting, legal and accounting services. Breaking those hours down to a 40-hour work week, it translates into a workforce of 2.77 million people. That's more than the workforce of our auto, aircraft, computer and steel manufacturing industries combined.But, what I found to be the most interesting is the Professor William's take on the prospects of the passage of the Fair tax. Seeing it as a tremendous obstacle, Professor Williams is quite pessimistic in outlook. While we here at the Fair Tax Blogburst respectfully disagree with this synopsis, his underlying rationale for the difficulty of passage of the Fair tax cannot be ignored.
The Fair Tax has much to recommend in its favor, such as being a more efficient form of taxation. It would go a long way toward protecting our privacy and preventing Congress from using the tax code to micromanage our lives. The Fair Tax is an excellent idea, but only under three conditions: first, the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment that created the income tax; second, a provision fixing the tax at, say, 23 percent; and third, a constitutional amendment mandating that a tax increase requires a three-fourths vote of Congress. Notwithstanding any provisions within the Fair Tax, if the Sixteenth Amendment weren't repealed, down the road we'd find ourselves with a national sales tax and an income tax.
You say, "Williams, it sounds as if you don't trust Congress." I don't trust Congress any farther than I can toss an elephant. During the debate prior to ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment, congressmen said that only the rich would ever pay income taxes. In 1917, only one-half of one percent of income earners paid income taxes. Those earning $250,000 a year in today's dollars paid one percent, and those earning $6 million in today's dollars paid 7 percent. The lie that only the rich would ever pay income taxes was simply propaganda to dupe Americans into ratifying the Sixteenth Amendment.The question we must ask is "What makes Williams think that this will pass any easier than the FairTax?" The outcome is doubtful for the exact same reasons that Williams argues would doom the FairTax -- the committees which decide where certain monies are spent can also confer privileges on some Americans at the expense of other Americans. Limiting spending to 10% would eliminate much of the congressional privilege-granting power, and corresponding campaign contributions.
Here's my prediction: The Fair Tax will never become law. The two most powerful congressional committees are the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance committees. These committees write tax law, and as such they are able to confer tax privileges on some Americans at the expense of other Americans. The Fair Tax would reduce or eliminate this form of congressional privilege-granting power and, subsequently, campaign contributions from the beneficiaries would dwindle.
The method used to finance the federal government is very important, but I've always argued that government spending is the true measure of its impact on our lives. If there were a Fair Tax, what's to stop Congress from deficit spending or inflating the currency? Deficit spending and inflation are simply alternative forms, albeit less obvious, of taxation.
You say, "What's Williams' solution?" My solution is an amendment limiting federal spending to a fixed percentage, say, 10 percent of the gross domestic product. You say, "Why 10 percent?" If 10 percent is good enough for the Baptist Church, it certainly ought to be good enough for Congress.
The one thing that the FairTax has behind it is the power of a grassroots organization. Ultimately, this is still a government of, by, and for the people. It is up to us to see that our representatives perform as we believe they should. It is up to us to insure passage of the FairTax bill. We must take Mr. Williams arguments for the FairTax and spread them as widely as possible, while ignoring his pessimism. Together, we can get this done.
And maybe in the meantime we can also cut spending, thus reducing the amount of tax required for the FairTax. Now isn't that an idea?
The FairTax Blogburst is jointly produced by Terry of The Right Track Blog and Jonathan of Publius Rendezvous. If you would like to host the weekly postings on your blog, please e-mail Terry . You will be added to our mailing list and blogroll.