Bob Franken

King Features Column

(As usual, the agreement with the syndicator means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)


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Why call something a “flat tax” when it causes the playing field to be even less level? Since what it really does is make the rich richer at the expense of everyone else, wouldn’t a better name for it be “fat tax” — as in “fat cats.” Funny how each of the plans offered by the Republican presidential candidates manages to accomplish that.

You can call it “9-9-9,” as Herman Cain does, or “Bold,” as Rick Perry does, or whatever catchy title the others use, but it’s really just a con that lowers taxes on the wealthy and often raises them for all those who can’t afford lavish campaign contributions.

Their best moniker would be “subterfuge,” since each is usually pitched as a way to uncomplicate the labyrinth of Internal Revenue Service loopholes that already benefit the super-moneyed interests. These approaches simply make it even easier for them to pay less than their fair share.

Is it any wonder that all but one of the GOP candidate offerings eliminate or reduce the capital-gains and estate taxes? Guess who is burdened by those taxes. The ones who have the most substantial capital gains and estates? Good guess.

More importantly, is it any wonder that the latest New York Times-CBS News poll registers two-thirds who believe that the wealth in this country is distributed unfairly? The good news is that apparently the vast majority of Americans have a grasp on reality, even if the politicians don’t.

Those who need more proof might note a new study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It digs deep into nearly 30 years of data to determine that between 1979 and 2007, the most prosperous 1 percent in our nation increased their treasure 275 percent. In the same time span, the middle class averaged about 40 percent and the lowest rungs about 18 percent.

The differences are staggering. This latest report echoes private ones, and they all present an indictment that helps explain the meaning of the Wall Street Occupiers’ “99-1” mantra.

Rick Perry and the others apparently don’t feel the gap is wide enough, so they concoct their flat-tax fictions. Perry’s tax policy is just the latest example of his far-right pandering, but only by a day or two. It came out just after he titillated the so-called Birthers, still out there muttering to themselves even though their discredited questions about Barack Obama’s natural-born status are psychotherapy material. Perry told Parade Magazine, “I don’t have any idea” whether the president’s birth certificate is authentic.

To make sure no one thought this was anything but a wink to the hardcore, he explained to John Harwood of The New York Times and CNBC that when it comes to the president, “It’s fun to poke him a little bit.” And, of course, to scrounge up the nutcase vote. We could call Perry the Pokeman.

From the useless-information department, my Web-based encyclopedia discloses that the name “Pokemon” grew out of the original video-game character Pocket Monster. Feel free to bore anybody you want with that tidbit, but it’s a way of saying that Perry and the other Pokepeople in his party who keep coming up with these flat-tax proposals are in the pockets of those in this country who don’t want to share any more from their bulging financial pantries.

So they toss a few crumbs to the willing politicians. That same New York Times-CBS News poll enumerates nine out of 10 respondents who distrust their government. Given how those around it play with contrived gimmicks like the flat tax, it’s no wonder.

© 2011 Bob Franken

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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