1:57pm

Tue October 25, 2011
It's All Politics

Rick Perry Offers Flatter Tax In Effort To Regain Traction

Because you can apparently never have enough flat-tax plans in a race for the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday officially introduced his own version.

That gives us two flat tax proposals in the GOP race, Perry's and Herman Cain's (all together now) 9-9-9 plan.

Actually, Perry's plan is not so much a flat tax as a flatter tax since he maintains some deductions and exemptions and even the current tax code for those who would prefer to use it.

Perry, of course, was supposed to be the anti-Romney until less-than-impressive performances on the campaign trail and debates, as well as controversial stances on illegal immigration and Social Security caused his support to wither.

Cain now is now claiming the lion's share of the anyone-but-Romney vote. So Perry clearly needs to do something to neutralize Cain's appeal to have a real hope of gaining the nomination. That's where his new "Cut, Balance and Grow" plan comes in, a slight variation on the name of the congressional Republicans' "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan.

Perry's flatter tax proposal doesn't rely on a national sales tax as does Cain's. Instead, while Cain would impose a nine percent sales tax on all purchases of new goods, Perry would create a 20 percent tax rate on income compared with the current series of rates that top out at 35 percent.

But, as mentioned earlier, Perry would let those who wanted to file under the current tax code continue to do so.

And if you liked publisher and failed presidential candidate Steve Forbes' persistent vision of being able to file your taxes on a postcard, you'll love Perry's proposal since the Texas governor also envisions people being able to file with postcards. Since Forbes advised Perry on the governor's new plan, the re-emergence of the postcard as a visual for simpler taxes isn't surprising.

Of course, when Forbes ran in 2000, most people were still filing paper returns to the IRS. With almost 99 million people using the Internal Revenue Service's e-file last year, the notion of postcards has a throwback-jersey feel to it.

Perry's Tuesday speech went beyond taxes. He also took on entitlement reform and deficit reduction, saying, for instance, that he would work with Congress to decide which retirees would be grandfathered into the present level of Social Security benefits and which would take financial haircuts.

And in a speech with plenty of ideas that seemed difficult to pull off, to put it mildly, Perry vowed to essentially put many Washington lobbyists out of work.

"My plan closes corporate loopholes, ends the special breaks for special interests, and stops the gravy train of lobbyists and tax lawyers at the Washington trough."

Many people will say, "color me skeptical" on that and other parts of his plan, especially given Perry's Texas reputation as a governor whose political supporters tended to get what they wanted from his administration.

Even the National Review Online's Jim Geraghty, while apparently liking much of what he heard, wasn't about to stock up on postcards:

"It is big, and will be difficult to enact: Freeze federal government salaries until the budget is balanced. End all earmarks. Repeal Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. Pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Cut $100 billion from non-defense discretionary spending in the first year."

Perry spent most of his speech criticizing President Obama and liberals. While he didn't appear to attack Cain, even obliquely, he did seem at one point to take a swipe at Mitt Romney who, with Cain, lead the Republican presidential field.

"America is under a crushing burden of debt, and the president simply offers larger deficits and the politics of class division. Others simply offer microwaved plans with warmed-over reforms based on current ingredients."

Since Romney's 59-point economic plan has been criticized as a compilation of existing GOP ideas, it appeared that was who Perry had in mind.

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