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American Taxation

March 2023
1min read

It’s amazing that an author as knowledgeable about history as John Steele Gordon should understand so little about public policy. Toward the end of his article, he asserts that under a flat tax “the guy down the block who is making more money [will pay] not only more taxes but a higher percentage.”

Few statements could be more wrong. First, unless a flat tax is described in some detail, discussion of it is nonsensical because every participant in the discussion has a different vision of what a flat tax is. In some flat-tax plans the rates are progressive. Second, no flat-tax plan that has been introduced in the Congress would give Gordon’s assurance that everybody is paying tax on income. Third, unless rates are higher than Gordon’s 20 percent, a flat tax, in whatever form, will bring in less revenue than the present overly maligned income tax. Fourth, as with all flat taxers, he does not have the conviction of his courage. If flat is good, why then make any argument for progressivity? If he wants low rates, they theoretically can be achieved under a progressive rate system with a broadened base. I say “theoretically” only because the existing code has been rendered the way it is by politicians and human behavior. Does Gordon expect to repeal these while also repealing the existing income tax?

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