April 16, 2007

McCain Tackles The Tax Code

John McCain, looking for some conservative mojo to break out of an early slump on the stump, will outline his plan to overhaul the federal tax code at a speech today in Memphis. Speaking in the heart of what may soon become Fred Territory, McCain will pledge to end the "Byzantine" tax laws that have created an entire industry out of determining how to pay Uncle Sam:

In a major economic policy speech today, Senator McCain will pledge to fix what he calls an "incomprehensible" and "Byzantine" federal tax code, casting himself as the candidate who will fight for changes that others have failed to achieve.

The speech to the Economic Club of Memphis is the second in a series of substantive addresses Mr. McCain is delivering in an effort to revive an ailing campaign and recapture the sharp-tongued candor that won him support in his first presidential bid eight years ago.

"It won't be easy to fix a Byzantine code that has been decades in the making. But I don't want the office for the sake of the nice house, the big plane, and the car and driver," Mr. McCain plans to say, according to an excerpt of his remarks provided to The New York Sun. "I want to fix the hardest problems, and I'll fight to make the tax code simpler, fairer, flatter, more pro-growth and pro-jobs."

The tax code gets plenty of grief from conservatives and libertarians. Its extensive series of penalties and benefits comes from the efforts of Congress to mold the income tax into a weapon for politicians to use against opponents and on behalf of allies. Instead of a simple system where every taxpayer can pay the government a rational portion of one's earnings, the current system is so complex that all but the most unburdened taxpayer has to pay for outside help, personal or technological, to comply with the law.

It's a good topic for McCain. He has long been a proponent of fiscal discipline, and this flows naturally from his activism on pork and other spending issues. It also will soothe some bruised feelings over McCain's lack of support for the Bush tax cuts when they first came to Congress. Depending on how far McCain goes in his proposals, it could help blunt the addition of Steve Forbes to Rudy Giuliani's campaign.

Will it be enough? It's a start, and it hits on a powerful issue for conservatives. It can't hurt.


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Comments (19)

Posted by SonnyJim [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 10:47 AM

Indeed this is the perfect subject for McCain because its best tackled by a sitting Senator. So I expect Mr. McCain to announce his withdrawal from the presidential race so that he can get to work immediately on this problem that has in fact been a century in the making.

Posted by docjim505 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 11:30 AM

Before Sen. McCain gives us another steamin' pile of "reform", perhaps he should go back and undo his revolting assault on the First Amendment called BCRA.

Posted by CJ [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 11:31 AM

Obviously a good time to announce somerthing on this topic, this is news that I have been waiting on for far too long. I ruled him out of consideration for president long ago. Now, if he continues to run, I will reconsider him just based on bringing this important issue to the forefront.

Posted by rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 11:52 AM

And the reason you haven't gotten to this before, Senator McCain, is ?

It is ridiculous that there is an entire industry that is set up just to pay the income tax.

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 11:57 AM

This is a "tackle" by you?

By me, it's a cheap shot.

Two day extension (because the 15th was on Sunday; and t'day is some sort of federal holiday of little note), the deadline to file with the IRS is t'marra. Midnight.

And, suddenly, in a spasm of viloence, Mccain flew out of bed! Still wrapped in McCain-Fingold, of course.

I think the ONLY people who really care about McCain, these days, are other senators. And, former senators; who see a "win" ... if he actually won anything ... As being a road into the White House, too. For those BOOBS.

I really don't think the American People are gonna go for an ad campaign.

Nor do I think most people will try to re-live 1988. Ya know why? The "re-lviing" crowd is stuck in the 1960's. And, they don't "do" 1988.

And, Bush, being his own disaster, has done to his family dynasty what no one, but FATE HERSELF, was able to do to the Kennedy clan. What with all their mishaps, and all. Cars falling off bridges. Self-propelled jets; nose-diving into the sea.

It's all sort'a like Governor Corzine. Once you heard he wasn't wearing a seat belt, what lesson did it bring home, huh?

Part of the reason we're seeing such "past-season" merchandise; is that the wholesalers are STUCK WITH THIS CRAP! And, they're panicked. If they can't move the old crap off their racks; they've got no room to put new people into their "show rooms."

Sort'a like 1980. When Reagan had to run around the GOP to get the nod.

Yeah. Sort'a like 1860, too. When Lincoln did the exact same thing!

Insiders? Always looking to foist upon the innocent voters, their favorite "nugget." Or two.

On the other hand? As the WHIGS disintegrated; and fell to earth. There were lots of insiders who saw their life's work disappearing from their own jobs market.

So? They let their first commitment, in the WHIG-WAM, to go to "the favorite son." And, by the next day. SEEING THE LIGHT OF DAY! Mr. #1 did NOT make it; even with re-arranging the numbers needed to win. Reducing acclimation to 51%. Rather than the usual. GRABBING THE WHOLE HALL, and getting all the wheels rotating, together.

How did Lincoln win?

Well, if you read my posts you'll know.

Burning the midnight oil LINCOLN's FRIEDS (he wasn't IN the WHIG-WAM until after he got nominated) ... All of his friends ... went to all the various State groups; and made the pitch: "YOUR GUY DOESN'T HAVE IT TO CARRY THE NATIONALS."

You'd be surprised the kinds of realities that set in among politicians. They're faster than the gold rush people recognizing a piece of gold. Even if it's buried deep, too.

So, in the end?

The man most popular with MOST OF ALL PEOPLE, irregardless of party affiliation. And, "special interest" concerns; will probably get nominated in 2008.

While the donks will run PIAPS.

They're having their own troubles, now, with her, ya know? They, too, are aware, she's not exactly exciting stuff. And, even among their own, she's least likely to capture voters.

Doesn't matter.

After Bush? The man who can't talk? Or rouse himself to show some curiosity? The guy who has played his presidency like Clem Kadiddle-hoffer? He will go home. With a shiney hat. Just like his dad's. They can parade around their yard in Maine, t'gether. Won't matter.

One reason Ronald Reagan's time came in 1980; and not, say, in 1976? The GOP wasn't ready, in 1976, to deal with much except their own interenal brotherhood. (They did the same in 1996. Yet, then? McCain didn't stick his toe in the water. Do you know why? HE WASN'T POPULAR! So? He made believe he was a gentlemen. And, he stepped aside for DOLE).

Pick wrong, again. And, ya get DOLE-REDUX.

The biggest threat that looms? Fat Albert Gore's greens and donks; rushing to tax all of America. Through the UN. To correct, of all things, "the weather."

Let's hope the oscar algore won, means nothing.

Posted by Dan-O [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 12:55 PM

I never even gave McCain even a passing thought as a candidate in 2008 (I'm leaning heavily toward Romney) but this one, single speech may be all that I need to change my mind.

I am so sick and frustrated with our federal tax code that I can't see straight. There is simply no compelling reason that it can't be reformed and made comprehensible to the everyone.

I will vote for McCain if he follows through on this pledge. It's that simple.

Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 1:41 PM

I agree with a flat tax, but I think it will be a tough sell.

Count on the media/Democrats (same thing I know) to tell people that the mean ol' Republicans are going to take away their pet deduction.

There is no possible way the Democrats will ever get behind this idea. Their constituency are the filthy rich who can pay people to hide their money and to do their taxes for them and poor people who pay very little or nothing in taxes. Not to mention, the law profession tilts heavily Dem.

And unfortunately, many people look at their deductions like a crow views shiny objects - entrancing. Makes 'em think they're special.

I like that both Rudy and McCain are behind this, but I am not optimistic it will sway many votes.

Posted by Lew [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 1:47 PM

Well gee golly gosh, smiling Johnny just discovered that the income tax is a major weapon in the political warfare of the last 95 years. And he's been in Washington for how many years now? What took you so long, John?

Oh, I forgot. He's looking to move his career along. Its that campaign thing again.

You have to respect his solid stance on the war and how he's stayed true to his original decision, but this is just ambition talking again. Like GWB was going to fix Social Security, too.

Posted by burt [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 2:00 PM

I hadn't heard that Forbes is onboard with Giuliani. That counts a lot to me. It may very well swing my vote to Rudy.

Rudy has been my paper a lot recently. Various op-ed articles from people I respect have suggested Rudy and Romney are the only ones with significant executive experience and that Rudy and Newt are the only ones who can give a good informative speech. Lastly Wall Street Journal's Strassel reports that a suit by NYC while he was mayor was the one that got to the supremes and resulting in killing the line item veto. Not so good on the surface. I am wondering what the legislative history of that appropriation and of the suit is: would it incriminate Rudy in my eyes?

Posted by Carol_Herman [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 2:10 PM

So far, Guiliani is the man to beat.

(Lincoln lesson: You want to elect someone who has NATIONAL appeal. Who can appeal to people who don't carry your particular "special interest banner.")

Guiliani also has Schwartzenegger guaranteeing to help with California. I think he owns the status, UNSAID, because of Hillary, that he'd be NY's favorite son.

And, I've read reports he also has Ohio. And, Pennyslvania.

What does this mean/ In the critical issue of VOTES, Guiliani already has BIG STATE POSSIBILITIES; a lot of others just don't possess.

Bush is a lemming. So far? Most people are as quiet as he is. As of "not talking" ever sent problems scurrying under the rugs. HA! Not even in the Oval Office!

Newt is nowhere near close to Guiliani, right now. In terms of galloping horses.

Yes. Guiliani's health has to hold! But Fred Thompson just antered the "cancer" word into the race. And, there may be other public victims, long before we have to worry about recurrence for Rudy.

He really is doing well!

McCain? I don't even know why he thinks he's "got one more run around the block," in him. He ain't going anywhere. Except to the DUMP. When people who HATE what McCain-Fingold's done to our system. Sure. Money talks. But does it have to be George Soros'?

Heck, that's like watching the Saudis. Who lack intelligence. Gifts for leadership. What not. But they've got the bucks to buy the pukes we tend to elect, anyway. SOMEDAY THIS WILL CHANGE!

And, the Internet is hear to help.

Posted by ohmyachingback [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 2:52 PM

If tax reform was "really" important to McCain, why did he get involved with the McCain/Feingold nonsense? He's had plenty of chances to address the tax morass; he didn't bother until now.

Thanks to mc/fngld and Gang of 14 I don't trust John McCain. This johnny-come-lately to tax reform makes me trust him even less.

Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 3:13 PM

Wouldn't any legislation dealing with the tax code, have to originate in Congress?

It's nice to think we would have a President who would sign such legislation, but the chances of Congress giving away their right to fiddle with the tax code (and generate $$$ from special interests in doing so) are pretty much nil.

Unless there's a fillibuster-proof Republican majority, the Dems will never allow it to get out of the Senate, even if it were to be passed in the House.

Posted by ajacksonian [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 4:58 PM

Article I, Section. 7 of the US Constitution:

"All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills."

Seems having to go all the way up to being President is a long ways when Sen. McCain could have just *worked* with a sympathetic Representative or five...

Just where have you been these past couple of decades in the Senate on this issue, Sen. McCain? Only just discover that Revenue Bills actually get drafted in the House and must be approved by the Senate?

Is it time to send a copy of the Constitutional job descriptions to Congress yet?

Posted by awbtf [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 5:00 PM

Apparently tax simplification is only for the Left.

Posted by cathyf [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 6:00 PM

Ok, I'll take this opportunity to pitch the Cathy Plan:

The current set of payroll taxes is a convoluted mixture of a 4-node multi-deduction progressive tax (called the "income tax") a 2-node few-deduction regressive tax (called the "social security tax" or the "self-employment tax") and a flat tax (called the "medicare tax") which has the same few deductions as the SE tax. As a family's income rises, their tax rates go up, go down, all over the place. So, my proposal:

1) Leave the medicare and SE/SS taxes at the same rates they are now, with the following variation. Right now, the SE/SS tax rate drops to zero at a particular income, which is indexed to inflation. I say keep that particular income level calculation (a bit over $90,000 income now) but use it differently. Instead of having the tax rate drop at that node, have the rate stay exactly the same, but the difference is what happens to the money. People will send 15.65% of their income to the government, but they will send in 15.65% on ALL of their income, not just the first $90K. The difference will be that the 15.65% on the income before the cutoff will go into a personal account owned by the taxpayer, while the 15.65% on the income above the cutoff will go into general government revenues. (Partially used to pay social security recipients along with other government obligations.) Thus the SE/SS/MC tax will become a true flat tax -- if you earn $1000, $156.50 will come out of your paycheck, if you earn $1,000,000,000, then $156,500,000 will come out of your paycheck

2) Replace the so-called "income tax" with something like the Forbes so-called "flat tax" The Forbes tax is not a flat tax, because it has more than one rate. The rate is zero for the first certain amount of money earned, and then a higher number after that. That is not a flat tax, it is a progressive tax. The advantage of Forbe's plan is precisely that it is a progressive tax, combined with a completely flat retirement tax, it makes a nice 2-rate mildly progressive tax.

Ok, that's my plan. It has stuff to make EVERYBODY mad.

1) All the conservative rich folks who whinge on about poor people "not paying taxes" when of course the true state of affairs is that poor people don't pay much in the column that is called "income tax" but still pay plenty of taxes on their income. They keep lecturing us on the wonders of a "flat tax" so they can put their money where their mouths are and send the government a flat 15.65% of every dollar they earn, not just the first $90K.

2) If a Forbes-style tax were to replace the so-called "income" tax part, the entire tax prep business would go *poof*. The half of the lobbying biz dependent upon getting tax breaks for pay would go *poof*. You think the squealing about turning the SS/SE/MC tax into a flat tax would be loud, this is going to be an F6 tornado.

If you want a little preview, observe the reaction to the AMT, which is an ACTUAL flat tax for the so-called "income" tax.

Posted by Campaignia.org Publisher [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 7:37 PM


Campaignia.org is a nonpartisan web site that is dedicated to the coverage of campaigns. Currently, it is focusing on Senator McCain's campaign. I think that there was a good dialogue on McCain's Iowa appearance on this thread, and that perhaps some of you - regardless of whether you are McCain supporters or are interested in his campaign - would find Campaignia.org interesting.

It seems to me that McCain's big problem in Iowa was that he skipped it in 2000 in order to concentrate on NH. That was probably a wise decision, but Iowa in 2008 is one of the few places where that decision might weaken his campaign.

Thoughts and comments are welcomed.


Publisher, Campaignia.org

Posted by conservative democrat [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 8:34 PM

Fox News/republicans (I know same thing.)I guess according to no-donk there are NO FILTHY RICH REPUBLICANS. Some people just inhabit a alternate universe. EVERY TOPIC is a call to arms to attack the dems. No-donk, I will rip my party when they DESERVE IT, when people pile on them for pure political hate.... I will defend them.....until THEY PRY MY COLD DEAD FINGERS OFF MY KEYBOARD. Grow up.

Posted by NoDonkey [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 16, 2007 9:43 PM

Are there any Democrats for the flat tax?

I googled it and came up with some Social Democrats in Prague who are for.

None in this country.

Democrats love byzantine regulations that only philopospher king politicians, master of the dark art lawyers and princely accountants can fathom.

The rest of us can eat cake and billions of dollars of year in compliance.

I will beat the Donkey when he needs a 2X4 in the snout, which happens to be each and every single day.

Posted by cave16 [TypeKey Profile Page] | April 17, 2007 1:14 AM

As part of my annual rite of tax preparation, I review utility bills to see (just for grins) how much tax is added to them.

Here are examples from our telephone bill:

For the priviledge of having a telephone: Federal Access Charge $5.84 a month per line. An additional tax to "keep local phone rates affordable for all Americans" of 9.1% of the basic service charge, is added. This is called the "Federal Universal Service Fund," which on average, is $1.90 a month per line.

Washington State sales tax is added to long distance billings (about $5 a month) as is another "Federal Universal Service Fund tax of about $3 a month for long distance calls.

Another Washington State sales tax for "Quest Choice Unlimited" (whatever that is) is added--about $4 a month, another Washington State sales tax of about $4 a month, and another "Federal Universal Service Fund" tax of about $3.50 a month is added on top of that.

Quest also provides our cable TV services, so a Washington State sales tax is added for that of about $3 a month.

In addition, our bill has an account titled "Taxes, fees and Surcharges." There are listed: Federal Excise Tax at 3%--$2.35 a month, State 911 @ $.20 per line, local 911 @ $.50 per line TRS Excise Funds Federal ADA Requirement @ $.09 per line, and the ever popular Telephone Assistance Program tax @ $.14 per line.

So on a bill of around $260 a month (we have a parent line, a fax line and a teenage daughter line) the taxes are $28.74 for December '06. For all of' '06 the total telephone and cable tax was $362.58, or about $30 a month on average.

Oh, and don't forget the cell phone tax of around $6.30 a month.

I don't have my electric bills at hand, but I'm sure various taxes and "fees" are included there as well.

My bottom line: Never, ever trust tax reformers. They have to pay bills too.

Spending reform is the only thing that will stop taxing at the Machevellian limit: Plucking the golden goose so harshly the goose stops laying eggs.

There, I've said my piece and feel much better.

Thank you for your attention.