by Ericka Schiche
It's ironic that two of the least qualified among the myriad vying for the presidency -- Steve Forbes and Patrick Buchanan -- propose a flat tax on incomes, yet neither candidate has made returns available for public perusal.
One-note politicians, whose platforms are predicated on vitriol (in the case of Buchanan) or narrowly narcissistic fiscal agendas (in the case of Forbes), can only play an ephemeral tune.
Two Hoover Institution economists, Robert Hall and Alvin Rabushka -- who supposedly devised the concept of a flat tax in 1981 -- propose a 19 percent flat tax rate that may engender investment and the oft-abstracted "growth." Forbes says he will never disclose returns, and Buchanan has said he'll disclose if he wins the Republican nomination -- we're obviously dealing with impossibilities and improbabilities here.
Perhaps the reason so many people are miffed or upset about these candidates' refusal to divulge information is that these are classic examples of a politician's political rhetoric.
The economists' plan eliminates taxes on capital gains and taxes individuals just on wages, salaries and pensions. Proponents of the plan say the large deduction for individuals facilitates economic survival for lower-income people -- they would not be required to pay income tax. Interest and dividends will not be taxed prima facie, but will be affected by taxes that fall under the heading of a business tax.
Despite the rhetoric, however, the person who stands to gain the most in this situation is a person like Forbes, not the average middle-income family. Most of the presidential candidates who have disclosed returns would save a significant amount were the Hall-Rabushka flat tax implemented.
Most are not willing to admit that none of the tax plans make life much easier for most tax-paying Americans. The poor may possibly benefit from having more to save, but the fact is the truly indigent will use whatever extra money they have to make ends meet, and the likelihood most of the poor will invest is the most cretinous of idealistic notions.
Interestingly, few people seem to mind that Forbes has no experience as a public servant. Like H. Ross Perot, Forbes wants to present a mellifluous finance-related plank to the people, encouraging them to consider personal and national financial fortification as they spend a relative pittance to buy the presidency.
Buchanan should not be taken seriously, yet it is Forbes whose message is clinging to people like lint to fabric. That Forbes has experience running a financial matters magazine is not insignificant, but his lack of experience as a public servant should not be ignored. We already have problems created (that are exacerbated daily) by the politicians who purport to vaunt citizens' interests above their own as they run off with money and power. People who have no concept of the bigger picture should just get out of the picture.
Schiche is a senior English major.