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Flat tax just won’t work

Chris Martin | Sunday, December 4, 2011

Nearly every week I read articles in The Observer with columnists claiming a flat tax is the answer, and nearly every week I shake my head with disdain.

Here’s why: a flat tax won’t solve any problems (and isn’t even remotely realistic). Bogus reasoning is constantly used in defense of this issue, so I’m here to set the record straight.

First bad argument: “A flat tax will increase simplicity and efficiency of collection.” The common justification is that this will ensure that the half of Americans who do not pay taxes will be forced to do so. Trust me, if that half wasn’t paying taxes before, they sure aren’t going to under a flat tax. Most who aren’t paying taxes are doing so illegally. So under a flat-tax they’ll finally pay up? I don’t think so.

Second: “A flat tax will stop the rich from cheating the system and start paying what they owe.” If you think the rich aren’t paying enough taxes now, then wait and see how much they’ll pay under a flat tax. Even with the rich using every possible tax break in the book, their effective tax rate could only get as low as possibly 15 to 17 percent. So a flat tax is the answer so the rich will pay less? That just doesn’t make any sense.

Third: “A flat-tax system will solve the financial crisis.” Really? Why, because then more people would understand it? A flat tax would cause the tax revenue in the U.S. to plummet to a near all-time low. Plus, every proposal so far completely disregards the amount of tax revenue lost that would have gone towards social security and medicare. You think we’re in a fix now? Imagine social security and medicare failing, then come talk to me.

So here’s the answer: fix the spending side of taxes, not the collecting. Politicians are what got us into this mess in the first place, so they should be the ones to get us out. If they weren’t so caught up in getting re-elected, maybe we would actually see some economic progress in the country. Besides, are you really going to listen to Herman Cain?

Chris Martin

grad student

off campus

Dec. 4