March 24th, 2012
03:43 PM ET

Zakaria: America needs a 2-page tax code

Editor's Note: Be sure to catch Fareed Zakaria GPS on CNN every Sunday at 10am and 1pm ET.

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

We’re going to hear a lot of polarized rhetoric over the next few months. The Republicans and Democrats will seem to disagree about everything. But there is one huge and important area where there is a possibility - a possibility - of bipartisan action and that’s tax reform.

Most Americans - Republicans and Democrats - dislike the tax code. They’re right to do so. America has what is arguably the world’s most complex tax code. The federal code plus IRS rulings is now 70,000 pages long. The code itself is 16,000 pages. The statist French, for example, have a tax code of only 1,909 pages - only 12% as long as ours. And then there are countries like Russia, the Czech Republic, Estonia that have innovated and moved to a flat tax, with considerable success.

You have to understand, complexity equals corruption.

When John McCain was still a raging reformer, he used to point out that the tax code was the foundation for the corruption of American politics. Special interests pay politicians vast amounts of cash for their campaigns and in return they get favorable exemptions, credits or loopholes in the tax code.

In other countries this sort of bribery takes place underneath bridges and with cash in brown envelopes. In America it is institutionalized and legal but it is the same thing: Cash to politicians in return for favorable treatment from the government.

The U.S. tax system is not simply corrupt, it is corrupt in a deceptive manner that has degraded the entire system of American government. Congress is able to funnel vast sums of money in perpetuity to its favored funders through the tax code without anyone realizing it.

For those who despair at the role of money in politics, the simplest way to get the corruption out of Washington is to remove the prize that members of Congress give away - preferential tax treatment. A flatter tax code with almost no exemptions does that.

The simplest fix to our tax code would be would be to lower the income tax dramatically, lower the corporate tax, and instead raise revenues through a national sales tax, or a value-added tax (VAT).

The U.S. is the only rich country in the world without a national sales tax. Germany has one at 19%, Britain at 20%, Korea at 10%.

What’s the appeal of a consumption tax?

First, it is efficient. Most studies, including one by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), suggest that the federal government loses several hundred billion dollars a year to tax fraud. This is much tougher to pull off with a consumption tax. Second, it provides the government with a more stable form of revenue than income taxes. Income taxes fluctuate greatly between boom and bust years. Third, American’s consume too much, often using credit and leverage to do so. A consumption tax would moderate this behavior. Government will always get less of a behavior it taxes and more of what it subsidies.

Ironically, the heavy reliance on income taxes makes the American system more progressive than those in Europe. The federal government gets about 43% of its total tax revenue from taxes on individual incomes and profits, compared with only 29% in Germany and 22% in France. The balance for France and Germany comes from the VAT, which is highly regressive. One recent OECD study showed that the top ten percent in America pay a larger share of total taxes, 45.1%, than do the top ten percent in any of the 24 countries examined. In Germany they pay 31% of the taxes, in France 28%.

But the best thing about tax reform is that it kills corruption. So if you ask me what kind of tax code I am in favor of, I am in favor of almost any new tax code that fulfils one requirement: It should fit on two pages.


soundoff (439 Responses)
  1. Brian

    Yeah, and ask the British how the VAT worked for the average joe.
    Some states, mine included already have a statewide sales tax. Implementing a federal salex tax on top of that would just make it even worse.

    March 24, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Reply
    • Pete

      http://www.fairtax.org. It would not be ON TOP of your current tax. The short answer it would be in place of the taxes you are already paying and it would be on items that would be cheaper to produce, and delivery than they were in the past.

      March 24, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Reply
  2. Publius 13

    Uh huh. Like the Chinese tax code.

    Line 1: How much money did you make last year?

    Line 2: Send it in.

    March 24, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Reply
    • dd

      That is the Obama tax code: make money and give it to me to waste on CEO bonuses for failing green companies.

      March 24, 2012 at 10:51 pm | Reply
  3. amarjit

    As there is no manufacturing in US and only confined to Defense & Arms, it will not be worthwhile to have VAT. As most items consumed are imported including eatable, it is better to have LCAT (Logistics cost added tax) as Supply lines are longest for consumer good & spread all over the world. It could have been good when WWII was over & cost of imports much less due to depression in all those countries that were liberated by American forces & their economy was in shambles & in state of extreme depression. As those countries have come up by now & their economy stabilized with no war or extremism acts, now they are developed economy & making higher profits by exporting to America. With most American manufacturing off shored after WWII and consistent engagement of US forces abroad in various wars or battle operations, America lost most of its revenue & resources while other nations without engagement in any war or operation globally, saved much of their resources & went ahead to better & progressive economy. It is time that US too adapt to realistic & determined policy with new tax code conditions, start own manufacturing & add VAT like taxes till debt is paid off, economy stabilized & jobs regenerated & industry grows stable. Revision of tax code can do a lot to improve taxation code & reduce corruption loop holes and improve moral bearing in industry.

    March 24, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Reply
  4. Symphonymusoc

    Before anyone sounds off against the US tax code, they should carefully examine foreign tax codes that often very fundamentally do not work. Our US tax code is basically voluntary and much fairer than any of the many foreign tax codes that I have examined closely. It is well delineated and people and governments arou d the world are jealous of our system. As US Persons, we should all be very cautious and careful about what we wish for. Carpe diem.

    March 24, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Reply
  5. Pete

    http://www.fairtax.org 20 million in research on the subject. HR 25 SR 13 are the legislation to review. be informed! If hate the current code come up a with a solution or look in to those that are out there. If you can't support the current code the don't defend it.

    March 24, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Reply
    • Pete

      Wholly crap I thought I reviewed what I was typing! http://www.fairtax.org has 20 million in research on the subject. HR 25 SR 13 are the legislation you can review. Be informed! If you hate the current code come up a with a solution, or look in to those that are out there. If you can't support the current code the don't defend it.

      March 24, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Reply
    • The Transaction Tax dot Org

      The un – fair.tax is regressive, look at http://thetransactiontax.org - and it didn't take 20 million in corporate money to come up with it. (It is based on the APT Tax, which is based on the research of a conservative economics professor.)

      March 24, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Reply
  6. Rich in TX

    "American’s consume too much, often using credit and leverage to do so. A consumption tax would moderate this behavior"

    Therein lies the problem. We have a consumer-based economy, slowly clawing its way out of a deep recession. This is a recipe for slowing spending.

    Now, I think slowing spending and encouraging savings and investing is a GOOD thing. A national sales tax would be GREAT. But we have to lay the groundwork by shifing our economy away from consumerism, to something else. Manufacturing? The government doesn't seem to want us doing that, and we can't compete with China and India and their near-slave wages. We're certainly not going back to being an agrarian society – we've got to get creative and find something new, something constructive on which to base our economy.

    March 24, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Reply
  7. Fred

    Thank you Fareed. I always read what you write and consider you the smartest, and most unbiased journalist on the national scene. I just hope our politicians read this and take it to heart.

    March 24, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  8. Mark

    O the tax system is corrupt in this country. I live in NY state, the motto of NY is "Tax us to Death"

    March 24, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Reply
  9. Victor

    If you want corruption and bribery to be continued to be legalized, support Washington DC and tax codes. If you want people to root out corruption, support lower flat tax AND closing of loopholes TOGETHER. So that corporations (INCLUDING UNION) can spend their time more productively. When a liberal like Zakaria says tax codes stink, listen to it. It means something. Ask Warren Buffet and see what he says. He may disagree this time because he cannot manipulate the system anymore.

    March 24, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Reply
  10. john

    European and canadian system of taxation dont work for free enterprise system. VAT taxes the public in general instead of taxable areas. Fareed has hidden agenda and he works for a foreign country. I wonder which one....hmmmmmmm

    March 24, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Reply
  11. xyz

    Some of what Zakaria writes about is very true, but the taxes levied in Europe are value added taxes and not sales tax.
    So I gotta submit the author isn't as familiar with taxes as he lets on.
    What we need is not a national sales tax, but a flat tax with a large personal deduction but very few other deductions.

    March 24, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Reply
  12. PacerLJ35

    Ah, finally something I can absolutely agree with Fareed on...

    March 24, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Reply
  13. Tired

    I'm in my prime working age. I believe a VAT, flat, or consumption tax is the answer. People in retirement can comlpain all they want, but it is their age group (incl my parents) that benefited the most from the gov't spending that led us to our current economic situation. To retire at 50 years old and then complain about HAVING to live on a fixed income is complete bs. Complain all you want. Get a job and pay taxes. I'm tired of funding your SS checks as I will never see a penny of SS when I retire. You should be sending me thank you notes for paying for your retirement.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:00 am | Reply
  14. jon

    better the US should have an independent media. sadly, all but one are biased towards the left.

    orwellian?slippery slope? you bet.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:12 am | Reply
  15. Robert

    I agree with Zakaria on this one. Folks, you need to get past your emotions and understand the fundamental point that he's making. The present tax code allows, in fact supports, ridiculous corruption and waste, and we ALL end up paying for it.

    To those of you who think a flat tax is "regressive" think again. Food, essentials, etc. are not taxed now AND what is vs. is NOT taxed could certainly be adjusted as necessary. But taking consumption of non-essentials to a higher degree, changing income tax to largely a flat tax, and then taking all that money that is no longer wasted or being used for "legal" bribes and using it for better purposes would be a VERY good thing.

    The big problem we've got here is that we're looking for "easy" solutions rather than the solutions that give us the biggest bang for the buck. We're arguing about how to pay for healthcare and whether we have Obamacare or not, and yet we're doing virtually NOTHING about waste and inefficiency in health care. Try, just try, to find anyone (and I do mean ANYONE) who thinks that the health care system in this country is even reasonably efficient. We'd find money beyond our wildest imagination if we could just tackle some of that inefficiency and waste. And there's way more where that comes from. Unfortunately, that all starts to hit the pocketbooks of politicians, their lobbyists and SIGs, so we're left with the "far out" solutions that we all argue about. What ever happened to the "no brainer" things that we could ALL agree need to be done? They're still out there, waiting for us...

    March 25, 2012 at 12:13 am | Reply
  16. garyschnid

    a VAT is a way to get money from those with illegal income (recreational pharmacuticle community comes to mind). It also get money from tourists that are visiting the USA. The USA does have a big tourist industry. If I go to Europe, I am paying their VAT for any purchases I make, yet I don't reep the benefits of those taxes. OK, maybe subsidized mass transit, or if I attend a public event if I use these things. Everyone needs things and will buy locally, so they will pay these taxes. It is more fair than the income tax. The author is right in that tax income or use a VAT. If both exist, both will increase due to the government power grab.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:30 am | Reply
  17. THE E MAILS OF BASHAR AL ASAD THE KILLER OF SYRIA

    الناشطون وصفوا الأسد بأنه حريص ويلغي ما يكتبه من صندوق الإرسال بشكل مستمر (وكالة الأنباء الأوروبية )
    نشرت صحيفة ذي غارديان لائحة بأهم الشخصيات التي ورد ذكرها في ثلاثة آلاف رسالة إلكترونية حصلت عليها، والتي تقول الصحيفة إن جزءا كبيرا منها نسخ من البريد الإلكتروني للرئيس السوري بشار الأسد sam@alshahba.com. وتصف الصحيفة الشخصيات التي تبادلت الرسائل أو لها علاقة بهذا العنوان البريدي بأنها مجموعة صغيرة ولكنها متنفذة وهم كالتالي:

    بشار الأسد: يقول الناشطون إن الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد يستخدم اسم "سام" (Sam) كاسم حركي في مراسلاته عبر الإنترنت. وقد لاحظ الناشطون -الذين راقبوا هذا العنوان لشهور عديدة- أن صاحبه شديد الحذر ويتمتع بحس أمني عال، ويقوم بمسح الرسائل الصادرة سريعا.

    أسماء الأسد: زوجة الرئيس السوري، وتستخدم بريدا إلكترونيا تحت عنوان ak@alshahba.com للمراسلة مع العنوان المذكور والحرفان الأولان يرمزان إلى عالية كيالي معلوف. وغالبا ما خاطب sam@alshahba.comصاحبة الحرفين AوK بعبارة "عزيزتي أسماء".

    ويعتقد الناشطون أن عالية كيالي الحقيقية ليس لديها حق الدخول إلى العنوان، ولكنهم لاحظوا أيضا أن صاحب هذا الحساب لا يتخذ إجراءات أمنية عالية مثل صاحب الحساب "سام". وتصف الصحيفة المراسلات بين العنوانين البريديين أعلاه، بأنها تنم عن شخصين يرتبطان بعلاقة زواج، ولكن علاقتهما ترزح تحت وطأة ضغط العمل الشديد، ولكن على أي حال فإن المراسلات بين الطرفين لا تنم عن اكتراث بالعنف الدموي الذي يجتاح سوريا.

    شهرزاد الجعفري: ابنة السفير السوري لدى الأمم المتحدة، وهي في بداية العشرينيات من عمرها. ويعتقد أن الجعفري وبعد تخرجها من الجامعة في الولايات المتحدة، عملت متدربة في مؤسسة براون لويد للعلاقات العامة في نيويورك بالولايات المتحدة. وبعد عودة الجعفري إلى دمشق، سرعان ما أصبحت من المقربين من الأسد وأعلى مستشاريه الإعلاميين.

    ويقول زملاؤها في مؤسسة براون إنها استمرت في التواصل معهم، واستخدمت علاقاتها مع المؤسسة لتحصل على ثقة الأسد كشخصية لها خبرة في مجال العلاقات العامة. إلا أن إحدى الرسائل التي تبادلتها الجعفري مع مسؤول رفيع المستوى في المؤسسة أظهرت دعمه للجعفري والأسد، ولكن المؤسسة بررت ذلك بأن كلمات المسؤول لم تكن سوى كلمات تشجيع لمتدربة سابقة في المؤسسة، وهي لا تعني دعما للأسد.

    هديل العلي: مستشارة صحفية إلى جانب الجعفري، وتتمتع بحظوة لدى الأسد وتأخذ على عاتقها كتابة تقارير عن الصحف اليومية وطريقة تعاملها مع الشأن السوري، ووقع خطابات الأسد على المناصرين، بالإضافة الى تأمين إيصال طلبات مقابلة الأسد من صحفيين يعتبرون مقبولين لدى النظام.

    لونة الشبل: مذيعة سابقة في قناة الجزيرة. تقدم دعما قويا للأسد وقد تكون من أشد المطالبين بانتهاج أسلوب متشدد إلى أكثر حد مع المعارضين السوريين. كما تقدم المشورة بشأن كيفية إبقاء الانتفاضة تحت السيطرة.

    خالد أحمد: أحد اللاعبين الأساسيين في المراسلات، ويقوم بتقديم تقييمات منتظمة عن الوضع المتردي في حمص. وهو مكلف بمهام إشرافية بوصفه مسؤولا سابقا في المنطقة التي تضم حمص. ويعتقد أن لأحمد صلات بالحزب القومي الاشتراكي السوري الذي ظل ومليشياته لمدة أربعين عاما من أشد المناصرين للنظام السوري. ويردد خالد رواية النظام أن هناك إرهابيين إسلاميين مدعومين من الخارج يحركون الانتفاضة السورية.

    حسين مرتضى: رئيس قناة العالم التلفزيونية الإيرانية، ويتمتع مرتضى بصلات قوية بإيران وحزب الله ويقدم النصائح والمشورة للأسد بشكل مستمر، ويدعي في مراسلاته مع "سام" بأن ما يقوله يمثل وجهة نظر إيران وحزب الله. ويعتبر مرتضى عنصرا رئيسيا في تسويق رواية النظام عن ما يجري في سوريا.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:32 am | Reply
    • Galtha58

      A translation would be nice. Most of us in the U.S. cannot read what you wrote. Anyone read Arabic and can translate this guys post?

      March 25, 2012 at 9:52 am | Reply
  18. JCal

    The big problem here are state taxes – income and sales tax. If you add those onto current taxes, we have too much. People writing about all our tax problem and inequities ignore this, but it can be high.. FOr instance in California, the top tax brackets for income are around 10%, and sales tax is around 9 1/2%. Too much government adds up.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:33 am | Reply
    • Bill

      And California politicians want to add 3% on top of the income tax, "temporarily" (bull$4!t, when is a temporary tax ever temporary?).

      When will it stop?

      March 25, 2012 at 12:56 am | Reply
  19. dan

    http://www.fairtax.org/site/PageServer?pagename=HowFairTaxWorks

    The current federal income tax system is clearly broken - unfair, overly complex, and almost impossible for most Americans to understand. But there is a reasonable, bipartisan alternative that is both fair and easy to understand. A system that allows you to keep your whole paycheck and only pay taxes on what you spend.

    The FairTax is a national sales tax that treats every person equally and allows American businesses to thrive, while generating the same tax revenue as the current three-million-word-plus word tax code. Under the FairTax, every person living in the United States pays a 23% national sales tax on purchases of new goods and services. This rate is equal to the lowest current income tax bracket (15%) combined with employee payroll taxes (7.65%), both of which will be eliminated.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:48 am | Reply
  20. BASHAR AL ASAD DANCE AND SYRIAN PEOPLE DIE

    رسائل البريد الإلكتروني كشفت عن شغف أسماء الأسد بالتسوق(الفرنسية)
    قالت صحيفة ذي غارديان البريطانية إن أسماء الأسد كانت تنفق عشرات آلاف الدولارات على التسوق عبر الإنترنت بينما كان الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد منهمكا بتنزيل الأغاني على آي باد وتبادلها معها ومع الأصدقاء.

    وكشفت الصحيفة عن تفاصيل دقيقة تتعلق بالأسد وزوجته أسماء، وذلك بعد التمكن من اختراق بريدهما الإلكتروني الشخصي، على أيدي ناشطين معارضين، وفي حين كانت جل اهتمامات الأسد بتحميل المواد الترفيهية وإهدائها لزوجته وأصدقائه، كانت زوجته أسماء مشغولة بالتسوق عبر الإنترنت.

    وأوضحت الصحيفة أنه بينما كان الصراع يحتدم على الأراضي السورية، كانت زوجة الرئيس الأسد تنفق مئات آلاف الدولارات عبر شبكة الإنترنت لشراء البضائع، وكان الأسد يتبادل روابط لمواد ترفيهية مع أصدقائه عبر جهاز آي باد، وأنه قام بتنزيل ملفات موسيقى عبر برنامج آي تونز.
    وقالت ذي غارديان إنه بينما كانت المدن والبلدات السورية تتعرض للقصف بالمدفعية الثقيلة وراجمات الصواريخ كان الأسد يرسل لزوجته أسماء أغاني لمطربين غربيين.

    مطرب أميركي
    وأوضحت أن المدن والبلدات السورية تعرضت لقصف شديد بمدافع الهاون في الخامس من فبراير/شباط الماضي، مما أسفر عن مقتل وجرح المئات من السوريين، وأن مجلس الأمن كان يخطط لاتخاذ قرار ضد من وصفته بالدكتاتور.

    وأضافت أن بريد الأسد الإلكتروني يكشف عن أنه في اليوم التالي قام بإهداء زوجته أسماء أغاني للمطرب الأميركي بليك شيلتون، وأنه قام بإنزالها من "آي تونز"، وأن بريد الأسد لم يعكس الحالة الدموية والاضطرابات التي تشهدها البلاد.

    وقالت إنه لا يبدو أن حياة الأسد وعائلته والدائرة الضيقة المحيطة به كانت تبدو وكأنها تقود البلاد الثائرة من حولهم، موضحة أن مطلع إحدى الأغاني كان يقول "لقد كنت أمشي مكسور القلب، لقد زججت بنفسي في الفوضى، فالشخص الذي كنت أمثله في الفترة الأخيرة، ليس هو الشخص الذي أردت أن أكون".

    وأضافت الصحيفة أن الناشطين اطلعوا على عشرات الرسائل الإلكترونية الخاصة بالبريد الشخصي للأسد وزوجته أسماء، والتي تظهر كيف أن زوجة الرئيس كانت تنفق عشرات آلاف الدولارات في التسوق عبر الإنترنت.

    وقالت إن أسماء الأسد كانت توقع على مشتريات ثمينة من الأثاث المصنوع يدويا والمجوهرات والأحذية الغربية بالرمز "AAA" وأنها كانت تشتري لها ولبعض صديقاتها، وأنها كانت تعيش حياة بذخ وترف.

    وأضافت أن بعض التجار الأوروبيين لا يعرفون أن المرأة التي تتسوق من محالهم عبر الإنترت هي السيدة الأولى لسوريا، ولكن بعضهم قال إنه يعرفها أو أنه قابلها مرة أو أكثر، وأنها كانت لطيفة جدا في التعامل مع التجار.

    وأشارت الصحيفة إلى تفاصيل العديد من الرسائل الإلكترونية التي أرسلها الأسد لزوجته ولآخرين، وإلى أن الرئيس السوري بدا متأثرا بالأحداث في ظل تفاقم الأزمة في البلاد.

    فقد كشفت عن أن بعض الرسائل الإلكترونية التي أرسلها الأسد لزوجته كانت تقول "إذا كنا أقوياء معا، فنحن سنتغلب على هذا معا. أحبك".

    كما أرسل الأسد رسالة أخرى في 23 يوليو/تموز 2011 يصف فيها روبرت موردوخ بكونه يهودي وإسرائيلي وأنه شيطان.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:48 am | Reply
    • dutchtowner

      Thats nice,now how about in english.

      March 25, 2012 at 9:31 am | Reply
  21. Bill

    America needs a one sentence tax code – either "Pay X% on all income above $Y," or "The national sales tax is Z%."

    Not both, pick one – an income or a consumption tax.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:55 am | Reply
  22. Don

    Taxation is theft.

    March 25, 2012 at 12:58 am | Reply
    • Mark

      Taxation is NOT theft, it is the price you pay for you freedom and citizenship. If you don't like paying taxes, move somewhere that has none, like Somalia.

      And when you have no reliable or safe water, electricity, transportation or security, see how long your business lasts. And no, stocking up on Kalashnikov's will not solve your problems.

      People who deny the need for taxation are infants, plain and simple.

      March 25, 2012 at 1:19 am | Reply
      • Don

        It is theft. It is not the price you pay for citizenship. It is the taking of property by force and without consent. Now unless the definition of theft has somehow changed, that is clearly theft.

        Water, fire protection, police, etc. can all be provided without theft. People who cry for theft to have those things are uncivilized thugs and have no place in a civil society.

        March 25, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  23. edward smith

    I'm tired of hearing about payroll taxes and the working poor. These payroll taxes are paying for their old age sustenance and medical. The poor will receive far more in benefits than they will ever pay into the system and would probably have nothing without it. The SS system is a highly progressive system in which the payout is skewed to credit the lowest range of earned income with the highest payout and the higher range of earnings with lower payout.

    March 25, 2012 at 1:07 am | Reply
  24. J

    Fair Tax much better approach. Please read and support.
    http://www.fairtax.org/site/PageServer?pagename=HowFairTaxWorks

    March 25, 2012 at 1:14 am | Reply
  25. Mark

    This is tax simplification snake oil. Sorry, I recall when Fareed was sanguine and reassuring about what a good idea the Iraq war was. An income tax is the best and fairest way to collect revenue.

    This is just typical smarty-pants tax code bashing. The false pied piper's tax appeal - for even someone as smart as Fareed - is this siren call of "simplicity" and "lack of corruption."

    Pass a VAT and all will be beautiful with the world? Well ...

    Did Fareed just say a flat tax was working well in Russia? I notice their corruption levels and tax collection problems are off the charts. There is plenty of room for corruption in a VAT or national sales tax. What is exempt, what isn't etc.etc. And Europe has far flatter income distribution, so a VAT there is FAR FAR less regressive.

    In America we have wide income disparities and so need widely differing tax schemes.

    Taxing a person who makes $40,000 a year and has to spend it all is totally unfair compared to millionaires who actually spend far smaller portions of their income.

    A poor person could end up paying taxes on 50% or more of their income, while a wealthy person would pay taxes on only 10% or less.

    Fareed's proposal is an obscenity.

    March 25, 2012 at 1:15 am | Reply
  26. VA Curmudgeon

    Many of the comments posted only concerns income tax. Payroll taxes, which provides nearly the same amount of revenue to the federal government, should be part of the discussion. For the most part, this tax falls heaviest to working Americans. For example, a self-employed person, depending on his situation, may not have any income tax liability but will pay nearly 13% in payroll taxes. If it wasn't for the payroll tax relief, this person would pay nearly 15%, or about the same as Mitt Romney's total tax, before paying any income tax.

    March 25, 2012 at 1:18 am | Reply
  27. JJj

    For a much better system that ends all the insanity and waste in the tax system, please go to Youtube and search on "FairTax Questions and Answers". You will find it very convincing if you give it a fair hearing.

    March 25, 2012 at 1:25 am | Reply
    • The Transaction Tax dot Org

      Read it, don't find it compelling at all. Read http://thetransactiontax.org and http://apttax.org

      March 25, 2012 at 1:46 am | Reply
  28. Alfred the Great

    It is reassuring that Zakaria is an expert on just about every subject under the sun.

    March 25, 2012 at 1:29 am | Reply
  29. JJj

    The Washington elite disfavor FairTax because it strips them of the power to coerce and covertly redistribute via the tax system. The FairTax is a much more transparent, fair, and less burdensome system that eliminates the IRS and addresses regressivity. This is a vastly better system. Please take the time to consider it. Youtube: ""FairTax Questions and Answers".

    March 25, 2012 at 1:31 am | Reply
    • Charlton Heston

      Look at their web site. It only addresses regressivity at incomes of less than about $50,000. Fairtax is very regressive above that level. Regressive tax plans are rewards for the rich and increase their disposable incomes. These rewards should compel them to contribute more of their income to government services, but this doesn't happen. The GOP's plan is to let them keep their riches, which will somehow be used for the benefit of society. However, because the GOP or the rich have no theory, plan, or organiziation to do anything good with the money, it can be spent on anything. This is just a helter-skelter approach to economics, which won't do anything predictable except put even more money in the hands of the rich and provide less badly needed services for the American society.

      March 25, 2012 at 10:11 am | Reply
  30. Daniel

    I absolutly agree. The simpler the tax code, the less it can be taken advantage of.

    March 25, 2012 at 1:49 am | Reply
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