October 16, 2006

Georgia: National Sales Tax Idea Crops Up in House Campaign

A Democratic member of the US House of Representatives has taken a step, in his most recent TV ad, that many Republican office-seekers wouldn't dream of taking in this fall's political climate: allying himself with President Bush. On one issue, at least.

Barrow's ad (not yet posted anywhere on the web that I can find; will post a link when it's up somewhere) focuses on the national sales tax proposal introduced in 2003 by a bunch of Congressman, including Barrow's 2006 opponent-- Max Burns. (In 2004, then-incument Burns lost his House seat to Barrow-- so this year's general election is a rematch.) After explaining that Burns wants to enact such a tax change-- and that Barrow opposes it because it would hike taxes on middle-income families-- Barrow notes that "I agree with George Bush on this one."

The implicit argument he appears to be making is that since a 2005 tax reform commission appointed by President Bush chose not to recommend a national sales tax, Bush must not like the idea himself, either. Of course, Bush has said positive things about the merits of a national sales tax before, back during his 2004 campaign:
I'm not exactly sure how big the national sales tax is going to have to be, but it's the kind of interesting idea that we ought to explore seriously.
And, of course, a starry-eyed optimist would dismiss outright the notion that a Bush-appointed tax reform commission would simply say whatever the President wanted to hear, although hard-headed realists predicted early on that it would do just that.

The best thing I can say about Barrow's assertion RE his agreement with Bush is that it's pretty clever. But Barrow is right on the facts of the national sales tax: low- and middle-income Georgians would get the shaft from such a proposal. An ITEP analysis released in 2004 found that the poorest 80% of Georgians would see, on average, a tax hike under a national sales tax.

Of course, there's plenty we don't know about how a national sales tax would actually work. Even its stauchest advocates don't seem to have a clear idea of exactly how broad the tax base would be-- and of course, you can't know the appropriate rate until you know what base you're applying it to. But the inexorable math of the thing is that wealthy Americans would see big tax cuts, while lower- and middle-income Americans would see a hike. Whatever Georgians may think of Barrow's cute "agreement" with Bush, it's hard to disagree with his take on the inherent unfairness of a national sales tax.


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