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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review August 9, 2005 / 4 Av, 5765

Forbes tries again to pump air into the flat tax

By Michael Kinsley


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It's true that the Republicans are the party of ideas and the Democrats are the party of reaction. Republicans set the agenda, and Democrats try to talk the country out of it. But the Republican Party is hardly the Institute for Advanced Studies. The GOP uses ideas like seasonal sports equipment — taking them out when needed, then scraping the mud off and stuffing them back into the garage until they are needed again.

Remember term limits for members of Congress? The flag-burning amendment? The balanced-budget amendment? Each of these has had a moment or two of glory, when Republican politicians, conservative TV and radio hosts and the Wall Street Journal editorial page all decided simultaneously that implementing this idea was vital to the survival of Western civilization. Polls soon showed a majority of Americans agreeing with them. The idea seemed unstoppable. It had the winds of history behind it.

And then the wind died and the idea went away. I still can't figure out how we have avoided trashing the Constitution with an idiotic amendment against burning the flag. But the failure of these hot-button issues, in stunning contrast to the success of the party that has ridden them to power, suggests that for Republicans, ideas serve politics, rather than the other way around.

The so-called flat tax is another hobby horse of the right that swept the nation, and then got swept away. But someone forgot to tell Steve Forbes, the amiably blank-faced magazine heir, who ran for president on the issue in 1996 and 2000. Now he has a book out: "Flat Tax Revolution." It's getting the full fair-and-balanced treatment — that is, unashamed open-throated puffery — on Fox News and other conservative outlets. So even though the idea looks pretty dead right now, a stake through its heart might still be prudent.

The flat tax is a game of three-card monte that deliberately confuses the issues of simplicity, fairness and the total tax burden on society. A simpler tax system would be a very good thing: good for the economy, and good for everyone's sanity. But contrary to what Forbes would have you believe, progressive tax rates — higher taxes on higher incomes — aren't what make the current system so complicated. It's as easy to multiply by 40% as it is to multiply by 17%. Even Republicans can easily do it — or hire someone to do it for them, if necessary.

The complications come in defining and calculating income. Some of the complications are unavoidable because people and companies have complicated affairs. The day may come when you can file your income tax on a postcard (millions come close even today, with the sorta-simple 1040EZ), but that day will never arrive for Steve Forbes. As for the unnecessary complications, most of them were not put there by people or interest groups pushing for higher taxes and bigger government. Quite the opposite: The complications are mostly special rules for people or companies trying to lower their taxes.

The nub of Forbes' proposal is this: Everybody would pay an income tax of 17%, with most deductions eliminated, but enough basic exemptions so a family of four would owe no income tax until it had income of more than $46,000. Of course, it would still pay the FICA Social Security tax. FICA, which starts at dollar-one, is already a bigger burden than the income tax for most people. But it tops out at incomes of $90,000 and doesn't apply to investment income at all. But that is just fairness talking.

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Forbes figures that almost everybody would pay less under his proposal than under the current system. And just to make sure, he would let you opt to calculate your taxes under current rules, if you prefer. So everybody would pay less. That is swell. But it has nothing to do with the flatness or otherwise of the tax system. You could just as well combine a tax cut with a proposal to release all the animals from the National Zoo. People might like that too. A simpler tax system would be very nice. But find me some folks who would choose a flat tax over the current system even if it meant that they would pay more, not less. Then I'd be impressed.

And if everyone gets a tax cut, where does the money come from? Do you really have to ask? It seems that no amount of recent experience can put a dent in the wonderfully convenient belief that you can raise tax revenues by cutting taxes, because lower taxes inspire people to work longer and think harder, yadda yadda yadda.

Debate on this quickly becomes theological, so let's note only that tax rates were higher than they are now when Forbes had the inspiration to be born into a wealthy family, and higher still when his father, Malcolm, first built the family fortune.

Next idea, please. Or, heck, why don't we take the balanced budget amendment out for another spin? It's been a while.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Michael Kinsley is Los Angeles Times Editorial and Opinion editor and former editor of Slate.com. Comment by clicking here.



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