The formula makes sense: Cut out almost every income tax loophole, tax all income - including capital gains on investments - using the same simple model, lower rates across the board (especially for lower and middle income earners where the money will mostly go to boosting demand, where the economy is weakest right now) and put at least half of the savings towards cutting the deficit.
Common sense ideas like this, on how we can in one fell swoop, make the tax system more fair, cut deficit spending and stimulate the economy where it needs the stimulation are exactly the kinds of ideas we need right now.
Fellow Omaha resident Warren Buffet talked at length about part of this equation in a op-ed in the New York Times on Sunday, saying that we need to "stop coddling the super-rich". I would have gone farther, saying we need to stop giving special deals to anyone.
For example, why should investment income be treated any differently than regular income? Why should someone who brings home $100,000 from an investment get to pay significantly less on that than someone who is pulling a paycheck for the same amount? It's absurd. Buffet has long used the example of how he actually pays the least percentage of his income than anyone else in his office, about half as much as the office average, while making far more than anyone else. Again - absurd.
Loopholes are an even easier thing to expose. Why should a business in this industry get lower taxes than this other one? It's really just because they've greased the right hands in Congress. Get rid of almost all of them, except ones that could apply to everyone, like the child tax credit.
The great thing about this is you not only bring in more revenue from cutting out looholes, but you can save people time and hassle. The only ones who lose here are tax preparation and tax attourneys. Imagine how much we'd all save if our tax return was so simple that it could fit onto a large postcard? In fact polls show people actually want taxes simplefied more than anything else.
The right's kneejerk reaction to this is to say that it would stop people from investing. But again, this is obviously ridiculous, as Buffet says in this part of his op-ed:
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.
I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off.
It really is quite telling that the defenders of unfair tax policies use such a flimsy response. Just as absurd as the above arguments, this idea that people will just stick their money in an account making far less than even a mediocre investment would, because taxes on any profit they make will go up a bit.
A radically more simple tax system, lower taxes across the board, cutting the deficit, stimulus without adding to the debt, savings in tax compliance and a much more fair system... this is precisely what our country needs right now.
Solomon Kleinsmith is a former nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates.