Advancing a Free Society

If Congress Can Mug Big Oil, It Can Mug Anyone

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When Robert Hall and Alvin Rabushka proposed the flat tax more than a quarter century ago, they justified it on the grounds of economic efficiency and tax simplification. We now understand the real reason we need a flat tax.

Under our current federal tax system, everyone pays different tax rates depending on their lobbying clout, political donations, or interest group. Differences in realized tax rates are brought about by exemptions, loopholes, and preferences, most justified as promoting the common good. If you are in good with Congress or the administration (like GE or Hollywood), your breaks are secure and you get new ones. If you cross them or are a convenient target (like “Big Oil”), they take them away. Many have learned the bitter lesson: “What one hand giveth, the other taketh away.”

Our tax code has become a blunt instrument for political mugging, shakedowns, and intimidation. It insures a steady flow of political contributions. Anyone can find themselves a target. But everyone should remember that tomorrow the shoe can be on the other foot.

Our federal tax code is not a rule of law, but a rule of the political jungle.

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