This may come as a surprise: I am in favor of a progressive tax. Now, before you burn me at the stake or rush to the mailbox to mail me my Communist membership packet, allow me to explain.
I support the FairTax bill, which would eliminate payroll and income taxes, and replace them with a flat rate national sales tax (about 23% inclusive). “But wait!” you say. “How is it progressive if it is flat?” Well, it is only applied to what you spend above and beyond the basic necessities of life. So if you are very poor and can only afford the basics, you pay no taxes. How it works is that at the beginning of each month, the head of each household will receive a “prebate” check “preimbursing” him or her for the estimated amount of tax dollars they would pay on the basic necessities of life for their household. If you only spend what you need to get by, your tax amount will equal your prebate amount and you will pay no net taxes. Now, as you start to look at people who spend more and more of their discretionary income on non-essentials, their total inclusive tax rate starts at zero, and starts to slowly increase, the more they buy. The more you buy, beyond the basic necessities of life, the greater the effective sales tax you pay up to a maximum percentage of the actual sales tax (if you want to get picky, there is essentially a horizontal asymptote on the graph which is at the set tax rate, so you’ll just get really really close to it if you spend a lot… say 22.99999%).
This is a progressive tax system, because the more you spend, the higher percentage you pay. Those evil rich people who buy airplanes and yachts will pay the most, and poor people will pay the least (that is to say: nothing). Isn’t this what the Left wants? Well, it’s what they said they wanted at least, so allow me to defend it, for those Conservatives and Libertarians who are opposed to the idea of progressive taxes.
Progressive taxes are opposed because they punish achievement. They punish excellence and hard work. But you must consider the effect that a completely flat tax system would have on the poor. The people who, after buying the things they need and are left with nothing, will have a very hard time breaking that inertia. They likely won’t have time to learn new skills, because they don’t have any significant discretionary income. They have to keep going to work just to put food on the table. A tax on the basic necessities of life is a severe handicap to one’s ability to break out of that cycle. It is essentially a tax on living, which is abhorrent both from a moral standpoint (Liberals’ objection) and from an American philosophical standpoint (Conservatives’ and Liberterians’ objection). By removing the tax on living, minimal earners are given a better chance to break this inertia, and have a greater chance of increasing their income by paying for additional education, or, have a greater chance of being able to save for their retirement. This lifting of the “life tax,” as I am now going to call it, is universal. No one should have to pay a tax on the things needed for basic survival. Thus, the total effective tax rate is progressive, but the tax rate on discretionary income is flat. Poor people get their tax burden removed, and all discretionary dollars spent are taxed equally.
It would seem that Liberals would be in favor of this, right? The tax burden for the poor goes away! Ah, but you have been fooled into thinking that elimination of the tax burden for the poor is what Liberals have been after. That they are opposing the FairTax so vehemently is evidence that this was not their goal. See, it is not progressive enough for them. But how can it not be progressive enough? The poorest people pay no tax, and actually, if they shop carefully for the basic necessities of life, they could actually pay less in taxes than the amount of their “prebate” check, which would mean that their net income would end up being more than their take home pay! So obviously, Liberals’ beef can’t be with the lower end of the progressiveness… it must be with the upper end. Ah… now we get to the crux of the matter. The FairTax doesn’t punish the rich enough. The Liberals in this country have declared war on the concept of the individual. In the words of Hillary Clinton, “We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society.” To them, society is not comprised of individuals, but of a collective body. Achievement is contrary to the concept of collectivism. Excellence is a statistical outlier to them that needs to be corrected. When you allow people to excel, others must invariably excel less. Liberals are not after equality opportunity, they are for equal results, by means of unequal opportunity. And that is why they oppose the FairTax. The FairTax not only removes inertia from the poor, it removes the punishment of achievers. They would rather saddle the poor with a tax on living, than suffer the injustice of letting overachievers keep their rewards. The goal is sameness. The goal is uniformity. Until we’re moving the poor up and the rich down and taking away the rewards that cause people to pursue excellence, they won’t be happy. They aren’t concerned with individual rights, but with the collective “right” for the richest and the poorest members of society be artificially made similar until we’re all indistinguishable oat grains in a lukewarm bowl of porridge.