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Don’t Mess With Taxes

Does the consumption tax stand a chance? Also: Learning to live with anti-Catholicism. Depending on DeLay. Losing it in Boston. Plus much more.

4.18.05

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BLOWING SMOKE
Re: David Holman's No Catholics Need Apply:

Boy, David Holman sure missed the boat in his impassioned defense of a Special Counsel who can find no government waste and thinks that most reports of federal malfeasance are more chaff than wheat. Scott Bloch is in a position to shake up bloated bureaucracies and expose wrong-headed programs but instead is having trouble getting out of the blocks.

The charge of anti-Catholicism is a defensive smoke screen for the head of the office charged with policing against nepotism and favoritism using taxpayer dollars to employ his friends and associates without ever once making a competitive merit-based hire.

The reason we have a civil service is to provide some check against the return to a spoils system. Whatever one thinks about the value of civil service, while it is here, its rule should be enforced even-handedly and with integrity. Too bad, that it ain't happening.
-- Jeff Ruch
Executive Director
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
Washington, D.C.

David Holman replies:
Mr. Ruch appears to concede the substantiated anti-Catholicism charge in dismissing it and falling back on hiring issues. Since Bloch's hires have been quite legal, Ruch lobs only unsubstantiated suspicion. Bloch's critics truly object to his using the prerogatives of his office and not bowing to the bureaucratic establishment. If Ruch were fighting for government efficiency, he similarly would have campaigned against Bloch's predecessor Elaine Kaplan when her office allowed hundreds of cases to accumulate.

THE SELF TAX
Re: Shawn Macomber's Mr. Caesar Goes to Washington:

While the idea of a national sales tax replacing the income tax has appeal, is it financially feasible. If you remove spending for necessities, as Mr. Macomber does, how much money would such a tax generate, assuming a reasonable level of taxation (say, 6 or 7%)?
-- Scott Pandich

Are you serious??

Example: I'm a retiree and live in NYC. I want to buy a new car for $30,000. The Fair tax to the Feds is 20%, so now my new car costs $36,000, my city tax is 8% on the $30,000 so my car now costs $38,400. If the State tax is 3% my cost is $39,100 or at least a 30% increase in the cost of my car. During the same year my roof needs to be replaced at a cost of $15,000 w/ accompanying federal sales tax of $3,000 plus a city sales tax of $1,200 and a State sales tax of 3% or $450 or $4650 total tax. My $15,000 roof is now $19,650. You get my point. With these 2 purchases alone I have been taxed $13,750 and that does not include any major appliance I might have to purchase during the year.

So far my Fair Tax bill is $9,000... my total tax bill for 2004 w/deductions is under $3,000. A no deductions tax bill in a plan like Fair Tax would not even approach the $9,000++ as I've outlined.

If reform is indeed a political and fiscal imperative, by all means, let's give a flat tax a fair chance.
-- Clint Alphen

The obvious concern for politicians, and in particular the Demoncrats, is that they will not be able to count on a consistently increasing source of funds -- what would happen if people decided to save more and spend less -- government taxes would decrease. That is exactly what is needed to begin to turn this country around. Under the current income tax scheme (and it is a scheme developed to steal the hard-earned money of our citizen's by an indirect method so that politicians can transfer it to groups whose votes they expect to buy), they do nothing except take the money, and audit the poor souls who are their victims to intimidate them into allowing government to steal more of what they earn.
-- Patrick R. Spooner
Windham, New Hampshire

Shawn Macomber does an excellent job today of summarizing the compelling arguments for a national sales tax. However, he, like other advocates, ignores a big problem for many of us in joining his support.

Many over age 45-50 have money in banks or investments, which we are saving for retirement, acknowledging that Social Security will be bankrupt, and in any case, not be enough to support a retirement.

All this saved money is the pathetically little amount left from our paychecks AFTER we paid income taxes. If a few years we will be spending these ALREADY-TAXED savings.

To add a national sales tax on to the already-taxed savings is a double tax. And a large one at that. Most advocates of a national sales tax seem to be talking in 15%-17% range.

How can we reasonably be expected to support a large double tax?
-- Jim Jastrzembski
Waukegan, Illinois

I love reading Mr. Macomber's pieces. They are always thought provoking. His piece on using a national sales tax as a ready form of citizen protest is no exception.

I understand that his idea was to sell the idea of a national sales tax, in lieu of a payroll/income tax, and the ability to use this type of a tax to bring pressure to bear upon legislators. It is not a new concept. It is however an exercise in futility, because it assumes that the majority of people are unhappy with the way legislators spend their money. This assumption is not born out by the fact that most legislators continue to be re-elected for term after term. For this to happen, it requires the willing cooperation of their constituents to vote for their re-election. Unhappy electorates do not return politicians to office.

A national sales tax is, in fact, a bad idea for the citizenry. Though it sounds good, the execution of the tax would be difficult to control. Instead of having a single entity responsible for the collection of federal taxes, you would have millions (every commercial enterprise in the U.S.) and you would need to expand the IRS several fold to handle the oversight necessary to maintain the integrity of the system.

Secondly, your taxes would be dependent upon market fluctuations. If the price of a commodity is up, you will pay a higher tax, without a corresponding increase in income. It also follows that if you work in an industry that produces a taxable item, a decrease in sales of that item could result in a total loss of income for you due to downsizing. If the decrease in sales was do to sales tax activism, then this would be tantamount to burning down your neighbor's house because you don't approve of the amount of money being spent on veterans' benefits.

Third, depending upon the size of the tax (the percentage of the purchase price added to the cost of the item) a number of non-essential, but highly desirable items may be priced out of the reach of lower income families (i.e.: television sets, computers, automobiles, etc.).

The list of "cons" goes on and on. There are so many, that one could spend dozens of pages outlining them.

There is no "right" answer when it comes to taxation. Unfortunately taxes are a necessary evil of society. They should be kept as low as possible, while producing enough revenue to provide necessary services. They should also be applied "fairly." I prefer the idea of a "flat tax," a fixed percentage of all income earned by all taxable entities in the country, but the electorate may choose something different. The electorate, through their elected representatives, set the services that they wish to receive and we must pay for them. It is our responsibility, as electors, to monitor the activities of our elected officials and insure that they comply with our wishes. If they do not, the best form of activism is not to return them to office.

A society with out compulsory taxation is a libertarian's dream. Unfortunately, it will always remain a dream.
-- Michael Tobias
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

If a congressman is really serious about cutting taxes, he first has to get the attention of the American people and get them motivated to cut the taxes. This can be accomplished with only one change to current tax law, and would relieve businesses of some paperwork. The only change required would be to eliminate withholding.

When the American taxpayer is forced to write a check each month for his or her taxes, they will comprehend the enormous tax burden we are under. The tax revolt would begin the first month they stroked a check and would continue unabated until tax relief was in hand. Each month of paying with a check, the outrage across the country would expand and congress would be forced to act on tax reduction and IRS reform.
-- John Croix
Alvin, Texas

You copied this from me. I have been saying this for years. We get rid of the underground economy. The problem is that the tax accountants and lawyers will never let it happen not to mention the IRS Union.
-- Mike Barbour
Naperville, Illinois

Shawn Macomber replies:
Reading the letters on my piece advocating a national sales tax in place of the federal income tax, I'm starting to get some inkling of why nobody from the Bush Administration has called me about economic policy or even offered me the same sort of deal Armstrong Williams got. Still, in my defense, I'm not some loon flying solo on this quest. Alan Greenspan, which acknowledging the political intractability of a national sales tax, has testified before the tax reform panel convened by George W. Bush that a consumption tax would be best from the perspective of promoting economic growth, particularly if one were designing a tax system from scratch, because a consumption tax is likely to encourage saving and capital formation." The CATO Institute also broached the same topic, albeit in a much more scholarly way than me, in a 1997 study entitled, Emancipating America from the Income Tax: How a National Sales Tax Would Work. Although they support a much different implementation than I do, Americans for Fair Taxation also have a handy set of
fast facts
on how a national sales tax would work in a practical way.

But, let's face it, the convenient part about arguing for or against a national sales tax is that it will never actually happen. No one's hypothesis will be tried out and, thus, no one can be proven right or wrong. But I still think I'm right. See how we go in circles?

BAFFLED BY BEANTOWN
Re: Lawrence Henry's Driving in Boston:

An original "New Yawker," I moved to South Texas 32 years ago. About 15 years ago, to attend a technical conference in Boston, I flew into Logan and rented a car. It took only 15 minutes to realize I was lost, shouting my frustration to associates, and those blocking my way (who obviously could not hear me, and if they could, would not care).

I concluded that living in the South for 17 years had resulted in the loss of my "killer instinct." I scanned the horizon for the first car rental agency I could find, turned the car in, and hailed a cab. Finally, I found tranquility.
-- David Smith
Pearland, Texas

John Kerry explained at last! Apparently his whole political approach was formed in and by driving the streets of Boston as a lad...
-- LM

As a proud veteran of the BQE, the LIE, the Gowanus, the Cross Bronx, and the streets of Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, I can state with expert authority that driving in Boston is much, much worse than driving in NYC.

The worst aspect, not mentioned by the author, is that the majority of exit signs appear AFTER the exit. Hence, if your ambition is to exit on Storrow Drive, and you wait to see the exit pointing to Storrow Drive, you're TOO LATE!
-- Frank Natoli
Newton, New Jersey

I have made several business trips to Boston. The first time I thought there must be something wrong with my diving skills as I had trouble finding anything. The second time I became aware that the problem wasn't with me but the city. After the third time I simple refuse to go back for any reason. I have missed many seminars and other business prospects but still refuse to go back to a place that is simple not user friendly. Besides I cannot in good conscience go to a place that continues sending people like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry back into office.
-- Charles R. LeBlanc

RALLY 'ROUND THE LEADER
Re: Ben Stein's Reign DeLay:

This is so good. Loved the article. The Truth is always a good thing to read.
-- DM
Texas

As usual, Ben Stein sums the situation up in a few short paragraphs. And his call to action is timely: the stakes are pretty high.

It's not so much that the Democrats want to pick our leaders for us: it's that they want to pick our leaders apart so that they cannot lead. If we foolishly abandon Tom DeLay, they will simply start the process of demolishing whomever we pick to replace him, just as they took down Bob Livingston even before he could pick up Newt Gingrich's gavel.

As a former constituent (I have since moved into the 18th District and am currently misrepresented by Sheila Jackson-Lee), I've written to Tom to encourage resistance, and I ask all of you out there to do likewise and to write to your GOP representatives to urge their continued support for the Majority Leader. This includes those of you in Connecticut who are constituents of the questionable Rep. Shays: let's stop helping the Democrats to destroy good people.
-- Stephen Foulard
Houston, Texas

All of a sudden the Democrats have become so pious. My goodness -- they wouldn't think of doing anything remotely unethical. Tom DeLay is the only offender. What a bunch of hypocrites showing up on the talk circuit these days. I think it's time the voters took back their country. We vote these clowns into office and they get a huge salary (which they don't earn) with all the perks that go with it. I wonder how many of the hypocrites would pass an ethical investigation. I for one am sick and tired of the accusations and petty partisan nonsense. If the Democrats want any respect they certainly aren't showing it. They have a gaggle of "wannabes" out there who are so busy accusing and at the same time dismissing anything that smells in their behavior. I think it's time we demand they all get investigated. It's a shame we have to have people like Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the like smearing our administration just because they lost two elections. That is exactly what it boils down to -- they lost and they can't handle it like grownups. Let's see what they have done in their campaigns and see if they are as squeaky clean as they would like us to believe. Also, I am fed up with the wimpy Republicans who can't take the heat and don't know which side of the fence to get off on.
-- Jane McNair
Connecticut

Sir, "...Elected officials are paid miserably and need to make ends meet in any legitimate way they can." Actually, if one looks at what these ladies and gentlemen are paid, they are doing better than 95% of the American Public.

I know Washington, D.C., and its environs are expensive digs. But I have the same sympathy for these folks that I do for baseball players. Both occupations were never intended to be permanent careers. Personally I would be in favor of a change of the rules in both houses. Something along these lines:

A member may receive compensation from anyone deemed not illegal by the laws of the land, with the following proviso:

* A member must declare said compensation.

* Said compensation shall be paid to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and dispersed to the recipient.

* No member may vote on a bill that reflects the interests of any provider of said compensation.

* No member may hold a major or minor chairmanship position that affects the interests of the compensator(s).

* The OPM shall be the sole determinant of the compensation and its effects. Appeal will be by a 12 member panel selected from the general population.

So if someone is elected who was previously a doctor, his votes on Medicare, drugs, etc., is null and void. And I can hear it now, who does one administer this? Time to get to the 21st century. They vote electronically. Both the bills and the voters are classed. Any that have conflicts are nulled. Computers can do this readily. It's time for electronic voting in both houses.

But Mr. Stein, the balance of your article I stand firmly behind. DeLay is a target and the MSM smells blood. Plain and simple.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

Ben Stein has, by his recent commentary in TAS, effortlessly reached the bottom line truth of why Tom DeLay is suffering the undisguised wrath of the corrupt MSM, as well the incessant whining of hapless liberals who say or do anything to get their power restored. There are, however, a couple of respectable conservative commentators "piling on" DeLay. One is the seriously bright Debra Saunders, and the other is the genius, John Podhoretz. I greatly admire both, but their recent commentary must also be beaten back, along with the drivel coming from the MSM/Nancy Pelosi crowd.

So, in support of Ben Stein and others whose efforts are critical in defeating liberal lies and exaggerations about DeLay, may I offer an email (slightly edited) I wrote to Saunders, cc Podhoretz, responding to her call for DeLay's ouster:

"Debra, Debra, Debra, you're carrying the water for corrupt liberals who have decided Tom DeLay must go, mostly, of course, because he has beaten them into the dirt over and over again, leaving them but one recourse, their near-perfected politics of personal destruction -- something that is possible only because the intellectually and politically corrupt MSM is interested more in ideology, conflict and tumult than the truth.

"And, you?! Rather than coming forward with proper perspective, you pile on. Surely you know you're aiding the Nancy Pelosi effort to defeat DeLay the only way she can -- exaggerating his conduct, and working to turn the biased, slovenly MSM loose on him. You're one of the very best conservative columnists we have, and I can only ask disappointedly: why are you giving liberals cover and credibility in their contemptible crusade to destroy Tom DeLay?

"I won't bother going through and refuting in detail each of the alleged delicts you ascribe to Tom DeLay. Suffice to say, most all that he has done is routinely done by many members of Congress -- and especially liberals. He took expensive junkets, indeed, as if he invented this practice, when this had been standard fare in congress since mass transit began!! Give me a break!

"Then there is the issue of DeLay offering a colleague future support in return for current support for legislation the President of the United States wanted passed. Oh, the horrors and wickedness!! Understandably, Nancy Pelosi was overcome by the vapors, but you? Accepting the premise begs the profound question, what are we to do about such crass, ignoble conduct by politicians as trading votes and favors? Wait, I know! Let's single out the guy who routinely cuffs the liberals around politically. This is an especially good plan since DeLay also has a PAC (gasp); he raises money for Republicans (I'm shocked, shocked); and, for heaven sakes, he wines, dines, and speaks before groups of potential political donors (how dare he?).

"But, according to you and Pelosi, that's not all of Tom DeLay's unspeakable chicanery. He asked the FAA for information about the location of a bunch of childish Texas liberal legislators who fled the state to avoid certain defeat at the hands of a duly elected conservative majority in the Texas Legislature -- a little thing some might consider violating their oaths of office and avoiding their duties to democracy. Yet, according to the likes of Nancy Pelosi and, apparently, you, DeLay seeking information from the FFA to learn their whereabouts, while perhaps not illegal, was ever so unfair and dishonorable.

"And then, it is said, what about the rule Republicans in the House adopted for their caucus (not adopted, of course, by liberals) that, when a member of the party leadership is indicted, such an accused person may not remain in a leadership position? Well, may I be among those who willingly admits the rule was, and is, dumb as dirt. It permits any corrupt, local yokel politician with power to convene a grand jury to determine the national leadership of the Republican Party [such as, for example, the DA of Harris Country Texas -- the esteemed, learned and distinguished public servant who corruptly indicted Kay Bailey Hutchison].

"Absolutely, such optional rules abused for political purposes by liberals, should be abandoned. A party dumb enough to do otherwise deserves not to be in power. So, I say "No Way Madam Pelosi and/or Madam Saunders." But, I beseech thee, little ladies, please don't hate conservatives for being rational, sentient beings.

"Now, let me think, did I cover everything? Well, I believe so, but permit me sum up with the simple admonition: in our system, alleged wrongdoers, or as liberals would characterize Tom DeLay, demonic repulsive slithering creatures specializing in hate and evildoing, are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty. And, to my knowledge, it has not been shown that Tom DeLay has violated a single law or formal rule of ethics. The worst the Ethics Committee has said about his conduct was that an appearance of impropriety existed. Well, you'll forgive me if I'm not too concerned about what a bunch of partisan liberals, or the RINO girly-man Chris Shays, may, this week, consider an appearance of impropriety.

"I apologize for the "little ladies" crack, but I'm so disappointed in you."
-- A. A. Reynolds
Chula Vista, California

IT IS SAID
Re: Mildred Perry Miller's letter (under "Game DeLay") in Reader Mail's Taking Back the Night and Ben Stein's The Truth About DeLay:

Mildred Perry Miller wrote in Reader Mail, "Mr. DeLay is said to be involved in the hideous bilking of Indian casino owners along with Abramoff and other arbiters such as Dr. James Dobson and Ralph Reed."

Well, let me tell you a thing or two about Mildred. She abuses her El Salvadorian house keeper, cheats on her taxes and is known to kick cats.

Now, I could be wrong, but if she is innocent, she should, as Senator Santorum would suggest, come forth, explain her actions, and defend her innocence (which is totally opposite from explaining her actions but I didn't read too much intelligence in her letter) or learn to quit believing all the lies and smears she reads in the NY Times
-- Greg Barnard
Franklin, Tennessee

Ms. Mildred Perry Miller writes a letter, "Game Delay," regarding Ben Stein's article "The Truth About DeLay." Ms. Miller says, "Mr. DeLay is said to be involved in ....." and cites a few controversies. May I submit that one of the main problems with the ant-DeLay folks is this very sentence from Ms. Miller. She does not know, or does not specifically cite, Tom DeLay horrible deeds done, only that Mr. DeLay "is said" to commit these horrible deeds.

Well, Ms. Miller, it is said that you write letters to the editor of conservative publications when you haven't a clue as to the veracity of your arguments. Therefore, I have determined that your computer privileges should be revoked for a year. It doesn't matter if this is fair or true or not, because "it is said" to be true, by me, and perhaps others.

I am sure that you will agree with me on this, Ms. Miller, since I have followed your logic impeccably to its ordained conclusion, madam. Truth be told, DeLay must be successfully Borked because he is one of the few truly successful and effective currently elected Republicans. He understands the game and its rules, and can play the game as well or better than the Democrats. Ipso Facto, he can not be allowed to live.
-- Ken Shreve
New Hampshire

Mildred Perry Miller's memory appears to be both short and selective. While asserting that Tom Delay "is said to be involved" in a supposed scandal surrounding Indian casinos, she conveniently forgets--if ever she knew--that Harry Reid, while on the Senate Committee for Indian Affairs, played fast-and-loose with Indian casino permits, depending upon who had contributed to whom. And who could forget -- as Mrs. Miller apparently has -- the "bilking" of Indian casino owners/aspirants by Bruce B-b-b-b-b-babbitt and other Clinton cronies during The Eight Dark Years, based upon who had ponied up the largest brib... er, "contribution"?

Finally, when did we come to demand that victims of calumny "come forward and prove their innocence"?
-- David Gonzalez
Wheeling, Illinois

HARDLY BEATING
Re: Scott G. Beach's letter (under "Beatnik") in Reader Mail's Taking Back the Night and David Holman's A Neo-Jesuit Education:

I am writing in response to Scott G. Beach's letter "Beatnik" regarding David Holman's article "A Neo-Jesuit Education."

Mr. Beach's letter equated the corporal punishment (spanking) of a child with beating or attacking a child.

Hogwash.

Likening corporal punishment and/or spanking to beating or attacking is threadbare and disingenuous.

I was spanked as a child. Not frequently. Always deservedly. I was never beaten. I was never attacked. (I did have a teacher rightfully kick my butt once, too)

A parent myself now, I spank my children. Not frequently. Always deservedly. My boys are never beaten. They are never attacked. They are disciplined with gentleness and love. I discuss with my sons what they did wrong, why they are getting a spanking, and what they can do in the future to avoid the same result. They are then reassured that they are loved and cherished.

When properly administered, corporal punishment is a very effective tool and can not be construed as beating or attacking.
-- Clark Hodgson
Wyocena, Wisconsin

Scott G. Beach's screed regarding David Holman's "A Neo-Jesuit Education" plainly shows his carelessness -- or worse -- in interpreting what Mr. Holman actually wrote. I quote:

" ... he will firmly discipline his students, including using corporal punishment when appropriate, if legal, and the child's parents are involved."

I can find no reference to 'violence against children' in Mr. Holman's excellent and objective article. Mr. Beach, however, escalates 'corporal punishment' to 'violence' with:

"Mr. McConnell had advocated violently striking children." And, "However, Le Moyne College has absolutely no obligation to provide a forum for the advocacy of violence against children. The dismissal of Mr. McConnell from Le Moyne College was an appropriate response to his advocacy of violence."

A typical liberal distortion of the facts.

I certainly don't 'advocate violence' against children, but given Mr. McConnell's conditions of "... when appropriate, if legal, and the child's parents are involved," I cannot see that an occasional application of 'the board of education' to 'the seat of learning' is going to cause irreparable damage to any child's psyche.

As early as the fourth grade in my home-town schools, a disruptive child was 'invited' up in front of the class, told to "grab your ankles" and a resounding smack with a paddle was administered. From my own personal experience, I can confirm that the sound was louder than the pain was intense, and the humiliation of listening to the snickers of my classmates was more effective than the pain of the paddling. At no time did I observe -- or receive -- any paddling that was not richly deserved, nor was it in any manner an outlet for a teacher's personal feelings. It was certainly less shaming than sitting in a corner, which is now a common 'time-out' imposed by 'modern' parents and teachers.

Personally, I think a return to "Spare the rod and spoil the child" would be a salubrious move in education.
-- Bob Johnson
Bedford, Texas

YOUR DOCTORS ARE NEXT
Re: David Hogberg's Minister of Socialist Health Care:

It's hard to believe there are still those who want to turn over their health care to the same bureaucrats!
-- Gordon Paravano
Sedona, Arizona

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