This morning my email inbox contained several solicitations for donations from various groups claiming to be carrying on the fight to bring the Fair Tax into being. As we get closer to the elections these groups always increase their year round outreach. This attention to one of America’s favorite wet dreams, dumping the IRS, is also addressed by political candidates of every stripe.
Every two and four years, as the national election cycles ramp up, candidates jump onto their favorite stalking horse and ride the public sentiment against the IRS. I must confess that when HR25, the Fair Tax, was first introduced on July 14, 1999 I was an avid supporter. Seventeen years later we have a piece of legislation that has attracted hundreds of sponsors and has been introduced in every congress since it first saw the light of day but has never been brought up for a vote..
Much passion and rhetoric has been expended, arguing the pros and cons of tax reform, but nothing has ever been done in congress to actually further the cause. Charlie Rangel, when head of the Ways and Means committee, famously stated that the bill would never be brought up for a vote so long as he was in charge. This proved to be true for him as well as for every other chair of that all-important committee.
The current US tax code, depending on whose figures you trust, contains somewhere between 60,000 and 80,000 pages. For comparison, the 22 volumes of the World Book Encyclopedia is listed as having just over 14,000. The complete works of Shakespeare has an 884,421 word count. Using the old publishers standard of 250 words per page that would equate to 3,538 pages. Conversely, the most widely accepted number of pages in the tax code, 77,000, would equal nineteen and a quarter million words.
HR 2029, the last bill to pass out of Congress in 2015, designed to bring clarity to certain aspects of the tax code, is said to have added another 2,000 pages.
The US tax code did not evolve by chance or through the actions of stupid people. It is well crafted and purposely obfuscated. The ability to tax is our legislators’ single most powerful tool. It is folly to believe that they would ever willingly vote to give it up, to be replaced by, well, nothing actually.
Seventeen years and counting. When will we accept that fact that no serious tax reform, the Fair Tax, the Post Card Tax Return promised by flat tax proponents, nor any other scheme to simplify the code at the expense of congressional power will ever happen?
Short of a grass roots movement leading to a constitutional convention to repeal the 16th amendment, we are stuck with status quo and I, for one, am tired of hearing politicians pretending to believe it could be otherwise.
And as an aside, what do you suppose becomes of the millions of dollars collected by those organizations whose email solicitations triggered this post?