Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-13) hosted a panel on Tax Reform on March 29, 2013. Buchanan is the only member of the powerful US House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee from Florida. The panel members were:
- Neal Boortz is a former nationally syndicated radio talk show host who co-wrote the Fair Tax Book with former Congressman John Linder. The book calls for the replacement of the income tax with a consumption tax.
- Dan Mitchell is a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, which is a public policy research organization dedicated to the principals of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace. Mitchell is an expert on tax reform and a strong advocate of a flat tax.
- National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)/Florida Chairman Jerry Pierce. The NFIB is is the leading small business association representing small and independent businesses. The NFIB supports modifications to provide tax relief and certainty to small businesses.
- Susan Nilon is the general manager of WSRQ radio, a radio show host and writer who advocates a progressive tax that taxes wealthy individuals at a higher rate than low income individuals.
The forum was moderated by WWSB/ABC 7 news anchor John McQuiston.
Watch the METV video of the entire panel discussion:
Every panel member opened by saying the current income tax system is broken. Susan Nilon asked if there was the political will to actually fix it. Each panel member addressed their solution to fix the system, ranging from repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment (which created the progressive income tax) to returning to a simpler form of taxation.
Of note was all agreed the current progressive tax system has failed. Boortz pointed out that progressive taxation was first outlined in the Communist Manifesto. Boortz, speaking for the Fair Tax, said that repeal was the best solution long term. Both CATO’s Dan Mitchell and NFIB’s Jerry Pierce agreed. Pierce noted that this was not the official NFIB position but his alone.
John McQuiston, the moderator, asked if changing the current system in any meaningful was was politically possible. Mitchell noted that during the 1990s Congress passed meaningful welfare reform and likened the tax reform challenge as doable. Congressman Buchanan indicated that from his meetings with President Obama and others that there is a six month window of opportunity to make meaningful changes.
The Fair Tax was most discussed by panel members. Mitchell noted that even though he was on the panel to represent the flat tax he had debated in favor of the Fair Tax. Nolan was concerned that the low income taxpayers would be negatively impacted. Boortz pointed out that under the Fair Tax, those making minimum wage would see a negative 23% tax while those making $31,000 would have a zero tax bill.
The issue of tax loop holes for corporations came up repeatedly. Corporations like GE have lobbyists who are paid to insure they pay no taxes and these lobbyists have been successful. Boortz pointed out that corporations pay no taxes. Rather individual stockholders and the consumers bear the burden of the taxes levied on the products and services provided by corporations.
The question of charitable deductions came up. Mitchell pointed out that all academic studies of charitable giving show that two things drive individuals to give – wealth and disposable income. For example the bill signed by President Obama in January limits itemized deductions for those making over $450,000 to 3%. The closing of loopholes already includes limiting deductions for high wealth individuals.
During the presentation the audience showed its appreciation for the panel and Rep. Buchanan by their applause. Boortz pointed out this type of event is critical if tax reform is to take place. Without the power of the people nothing will happen. Boortz pointed out that with the implementation of the Fair Tax and elimination of the progressive income tax, “it will be the greatest transfer of power from government to the people since the American revolution.”
At the end of the discussion both Rep. Buchanan and Jerry Pierce warned that the United States faces a financial meltdown in the next 3 to 8 years. Mitchell noted that by 2040 Greece spending will be at 300% of their GDP, while America’s spending will be at 450% of GDP. The disaster is eminent noted Rep. Buchanan but he believe a bi-partisan agreement is possible within the next six months.
If none is reached then America’s fiscal downfall is set. The question is not if, but when.