Warren Buffett needs to take a cue from Steve Forbes.
A day after Buffett used a New York Times column to call for raising taxes on the nation's richest citizens, we can't help but think of the best and most enduring development of the presidential campaigns of 1996 and 2000: the attention that Steve Forbes, then-candidate for the Republican nomination, put on his flat tax plan.
In fact, even back then, Steve Forbes was using the term "Tea Party" to describe a liberation movement away from Washington fat cats in favor of putting power back in the hands of hard-working Americans.
The first and most important part of Forbes' fiscal remedy? Dramatic pro-growth tax cuts.
"Start by scrapping the tax code. Don't fiddle with it. Junk it. Throw it out. Bury it. Replace it with a pro-growth, pro-family tax cut that lowers tax rates to 17 percent across the board and expands exemptions for individuals and children so that a family of four would pay no taxes on the first $36,000 of income," said Forbes back in 1995.
If only America had listened and sent Forbes to the Oval Office. Instead, America is now buckling under the weight of a socialist, Big Government president who wants to tax us into oblivion.
The flat tax would be so simple that anyone could fill it out on a postcard. According to Forbes, it would be honest, it would eliminate the principal source of political corruption in Washington, and it would be fair. Millions of people would be off the federal income tax rolls."Not one cent to the IRS on the first $36,000. Anything over that would be taxed at a flat, fair 17 percent," he said.
"I'm not talking 'revenue neutral' fiddling with the tax code, the usual game in Washington that pretends to cut some taxes while raising others. And I'm not talking about fiddling around the 'margins' cutting taxes that only help the well-to-do," Forbes said. "I am talking about across-the-board tax cuts that are deep and wide and permanent, that reach down to all Americans and get the suffocating weight of the IRS off their backs."
Forbes envisioned no taxes on Social Security, pensions or personal savings. His tax code would have zeroed out capital gains taxes. It would have set off a boom by letting people keep more of what they earn and by lowering barriers to risk taking.
If we're lucky, perhaps Steve Forbes will toss his hat into the presidential ring again. But until that time comes, smart candidates would do well to recall his flat tax proposal that can still help solve America's current fiscal woes.