We are speeding toward an economic cliff because our government can't practice restraint.
We spend so much more than we take in because politicians at every level use the public treasury to win elections. The public mostly accepts lavish promises of more and more federal spending because the cost of government has been so effectively divorced from what actually comes out of our paychecks.
Ask almost anyone how they did on their taxes and you're likely to hear a happy exclamation that the taxpayer got a little money back! But ask the same person how much they paid the government over the year in withheld income and payroll taxes and you'll often see a blank look.
When the money that government spends seems so unconnected to the money we earn it is easy for many to see government expenditures as "free money." It's not, but the engineered divorce in perception between the fruits of our labors and spending by elected officials has resulted in a national debt that equals more than $500,000 per American household. If not for accounting sleights-of-hand the national debt would be seen as much higher than even the shocking figure of more than $12 trillion.
As my father, Ronald Reagan, once said, "Our federal tax system is, in short, utterly impossible, utterly unjust and completely counterproductive, it reeks with injustice and is fundamentally un-American . . . It has earned a rebellion and it's time we rebelled."
I agree and that's why I am enthusiastically now helping FairTax.org with pending legislation to replace the income tax entirely with a fair, progressive and honest national consumption tax aptly called the FairTax. It ends all federal taxes on income and earnings and replaces every penny now raised with a 23% tax on personal consumption at the point of final retail sale.
In conducting research on the FairTax, I have become convinced of two things: the FairTax is the best way to create a new era of healthy American economic growth, and that my father would have been a strong proponent of the FairTax as a tax reform/replacement model had it existed during his time in government.
Among many virtues, like the effect the FairTax will have on bringing trillions of private, job-producing investment dollars into our economy, the FairTax restores critically needed transparency to government spending. Because the taxpayer sees the cost of government on every receipt, the relationship between personal earnings and government spending becomes crystal clear. This will inevitably lead to public pressure to restrain spending — and not a moment too soon.
Workers take home paychecks free of federal withholding and FICA taxes under the FairTax. This is a stimulus idea that we all need. Congressional corruption of the tax code disappears under the FairTax because there are no exemptions that can be expanded and sold for profit and power by tax writing committees to the favored few. In essence, those who spend more pay higher taxes.
Instead of exemptions that can be manipulated by Congress, the FairTax issues a monthly "prebate" check that covers the taxes we will pay on the necessities of life and which wipes out all federal taxes on spending up to the poverty level. In addition, hidden income-tax costs now embedded in the price of products we pay will also be eliminated and brought into the bright light of public scrutiny.
When you consider that fat cats, illegal immigrants and the underground economy all become part of the tax base, as consumers, it is easy to see that we can all pay less of a share for government. It's just a better, more honest and simple way to collect federal taxes, and one that makes April 15 just another spring day.
It's time for the second American tax revolt and that's why I am helping lead the FairTax national movement and encouraging everyone to join the cause by visiting www.fairtax.org.
Mike Reagan, the elder son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is spokesman for The Reagan Nation and chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation (www.reaganlegacyfoundation.org). Look for his books and other information at www.Reagan.com. E-mail comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com.
© Mike Reagan