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  • The GOP's plan of attack

       August 20, 2004

    It's been said that every Presidential campaign needs one strong and solid message - something that people can focus on, something that people can identify with and get behind, something that people can see as the "centerpiece" of the candidate's campaign. This election year will be no different, so President Bush will need to identify an issue and make that issue the centerpiece of his Presidental re-relection campaign.

    I realize that I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing that President Bush has already chosen his "theme," and I think that he's about to hit a home run with his choice. No, scratch that - he isn't about to hit a home run, he's about to pound a grand slam, clear out of the park.

    Two weeks ago, I added a link on the Daily Page to an article about Bush campaigning in Virginia. Knowing that Virginia is traditionally a Republican stronghold, and knowing that recent polls indicate that Virginia is fast becoming a battleground state, I linked to that article with the headline, "Bush campaigning in......... Virginia? (not a good sign, kids)." That article also reports that at that campaign stop, President Bush made the following statement:

    He criticized Democrat John Kerry's proposal to eliminate tax cuts for the wealthy, saying that "the rich in America happen to be small business owners" who put people to work.

    Bush added that "the really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes anyway."

    "What?" I thought. What an odd thing to say. Of course, I understood that the statement was (probably) made in jest. Sure, I understood that the whole crazy idea that only the rich pay taxes is just that, a crazy, ludicrous idea - but why would Bush say something as potentially damaging as that? After all, he knows, better than anyone, that the media loves a soundbyte. And here he is, serving up what could prove to be one of the most politically damaging soundbytes of his entire career.

    While the tradtional media (strangely) largely ignored the comment, the liberal end of the blogosphere surely didn't miss it. There was a lot talk that it was Bush "showing his true colors, in a rare moment of honesty," etc.

    I had almost completely forgotten about it until I was reading this article over at RedState last night. I found this to be an excellent point:

    My own suggestion is to revive the old Dick Armey tactic ... and adopt a "do your taxes on a postcard" policy - consisting of a flatter tax ... and the elimination of the IRS. I think President Bush would pull off the visual well - holding up a postcard with "1040" printed on it, and forcing the Democrats to respond in two ways: defending the status quo (the IRS - ewww), or returning to even more class warfare rhetoric about the rich folks who would inevitably pay less ...(emphasis added)

    I think that this point is dead on.

    The Dems have gone all in and made two issues the centerpiece of their campaign : 1. "Bring the troops home," and 2. "Roll back the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy." President Bush has already started taking away their first hot-button-issue by announcing plans for a major troop realignment for US forces in Asia and Europe. Unable to respond in any other way, the Dems (typically) didn't address the move at all, but instead questioned the timing of the announcement. If President Bush were to make the elimination of the IRS his central campaign issue, there is almost no way that the Dems could effectively counter it.

    The next time John Kerry charges out and says "let's roll back the tax cuts for the rich!," President Bush could knock the wind out of his Nantucket sails by saying "I couldn't agree more."

    He would then go on to explain:

    • The rich always seem to find clever ways to avoid paying taxes.
    • That's because taxes are too complicated.
    • It's not fair that the rich should be able to use clever tax loopholes to get more money to spend on frivolous things, while the working man pays income tax on the money that he puts into the bank for savings, and then pays income tax again on the interest that he earns on that money.
    • So lets simplify things. Let's eliminate the income tax, and tax everything except food and clothing.
    • If you're working hard and saving $, you have 33% more money, because you pay no taxes.
    • If the rich are out there buying high priced fancy cars, they'll pay more taxes.
    • Things will get more expensive, but you'll have 33% more money. If you take home $30,000 a year today, You'll take home $40,000 next year. Are you really going to spend $10,000 more a year on cars and jewelery? No, because most American families live paycheck to paycheck. Jewelery makes up maybe 1% of their overall annual budget.

    I think the pre-announcement that Dennis Hastert's new book includes a plan to eliminate the IRS is a sort of "testing the waters" for the idea. And I think that President Bush's campaign speech in GOP-friendly Virginia, where he dropped the out-of-character line "the really rich people figure out how to dodge taxes anyway" was another test.

    There are many that say that the plan won't work, that a national sales can't completely replace the IRS, and these people may well be right. Indeed, the Bush message will likely be "working towards eliminating the IRS."

    In any event, I think that this campaign message would have only a tremendous upside for President Bush, politically speaking. First and foremost, it takes away the Dems' centerpiece issue. Secondly, it gives the impression that the Bush White House is about real solutions, about "radical solutions," not just the same-old-same-old political mumbo-jumbo. People want solutions, people want radical ideas and "progress." What could be more "progressive" than eliminating the most feared and hated government agency? Ever "progressive" California would be all over this one. And finally, the plan has the further strength of bringing the now straying fiscally conservative and libertarian-leaning factions of the party back into the fold as well.

    Personally, I think that eliminating income tax is an idea well worth considering. I know that it's hard for many Americans to believe today, but back in 1913 when the 16th Amendment was ratified, the idea of a government taxing the incomes of its citizens was as outrageous an idea as the government trying to tax air or water. Regardless of whether a national sales tax proves a fair and effective replacement for the IRS, one thing is for certain - the American people hate paying taxes, and the American people like to make their own decisions. A proposal to eliminate the current forced income redistribution system in the US and replace it with one that offers more personal autonomy is sure to get a positive reaction.

    Posted by jkhat at August 20, 2004 04:14 PM

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    #  March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM      Converted_Comment
    Converted comment: Posted by: Flash Q. Fiasco at August 20, 2004 04:16 PM

    Bush could win an election on eliminating the federal income tax and moving squarely to a national sales tax? Then I'll take a wild stab and guess that corporations would also pay their taxes on goods and services purchased. That's essentially a VAT scheme which common in Europe. There are a lot of negatives about VATs, but one central problem is that the burden of taxes is shifted disproportionately on the consumer. There's also a potential for individuals and corporations to 'cheat' on their taxes by importing goods from overseas. While the tax code could compensate by imposing trarrifs and quotas, either way there would be a general erosion of overall demand for domestically produced products and participation in foreign trade.

    #  March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM      Converted_Comment
    Converted comment: Posted by: jkhat at August 20, 2004 04:49 PM

    Flash Q, I'm not trying to address the merits of such a system here, I'm just saying that I think it would be a good issue to campaign on, politically.

    Undoubtedly, the detractors would make points such as the ones you made above. And granted, if those points are strong enough, the idea turns into a political loser. I just don't think that the counter arguments are that strong.

    Or, what I should say is, since there is no single overwhelming consensus on the effects of such a system, and since the average American voter isnt a PhD level economist, people are going to come down on both sides of the issue.

    You point out problems with the such an "people could cheat." True. But people won't dismiss the idea simply because there is a potential for people to cheat - there is a potential for individuals to cheat in any tax system. In the current system, people make income that they don't report, individuals claim deductions that they don't deserve, and corporations and individuals alike find clever ways to claim losses or find tax shelters.

    Any income tax system is undoubtedly a hard sell. Heck, it took almost 50 years to get the current income tax system even implemented, and we've been tweaking it ever since.

    The way to sell any tax system is probably to point to the existing system and say "hey, this is better than THAT." (which seems to be the kerry campaign's strategy for selling him, i note.) I dont know, if you were to start from scratch, with no income tax system in place, I think youd have an easier time selling a VAT system than you would our current sytem.

    #  March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM      Converted_Comment
    Converted comment: Posted by: James at August 21, 2004 10:23 AM

    Go here to read about the fair tax. Not my website but I believe this is the way to go. The cost of tax compliance in this country is outrageous. Almost all states collect a sales tax of one form and most software in retail stores can accommodate multiple sales taxes. The method to collect is there. You have to pass an ammendment to illegalize the income tax and legalize a national sales tax. It would be absolutely unacceptable and the Hillary's dream to have both. Remember

    #  March 7th, 2005 6:48 PM      Converted_Comment
    Converted comment: Posted by: kris at August 21, 2004 06:18 PM

    hey, you might be on to something.

    beware though, much of this article reads like a kerry press release.




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