By Paolo von Schirach
October 26, 2011
WASHINGTON– Texas Governor Rick Perry, fighting hard (and now from the bottom of the pile) for the Republican Party White House nomination, came out with a “flat tax” proposal that, if ever adopted and made into law, would dramatically alter the way Americans pay their federal income taxes. It would be simple and easy to understand. It would eliminate most, although not all, deductions; and it could be filed in minutes, as opposed to hapless Americans having to resort to legions of tax experts who these days guide –for a price– most of the uninitiated citizens through the maze of the current tax code.
Perry’s flat tax a good idea?
So, a good idea from Governor Perry? Well, in principle yes. We can debate the details. But anything aiming at serious simplification beats the current tax code. Simplification and clear, easy to understand, rules would be a blessing for tax payers and for the US economy. On top of that, this reform aimed at lowering rates, while broadening the tax base may actually increase total revenue.
The problem is Perry as messenger
There is only one problem here, and it is a big one: the messenger. Governor Perry seems to be an amateur presidential candidate. Let’s look at the odd timing of this tax reform announcement. Perry came up with this truly radical proposal just as he keeps sinking in the polls. And so this plan seems to be a move driven by political expediency, (or desperation), rather than thoughtful preparation.
Unfortunately, the way he presented this tax reform blueprint fits a pattern of improvisation. Given his record so far, it seems that Governor Perry thought that running for the White House was something like running to be a board member of the local Country Club. He came in late and totally unprepared; and most likely thinking that he needed no preparation. Right from the start, he made silly, bombastic statements, (about the Chairman of the Fed being guilty of treason, about Texas seceding from the Union).
Unserious candidate, fueling the disgraceful Obama birth certificate story
True to character, almost at the same time of his flat tax proposal announcement, Perry in several interviews indulged in innuendos about the tired story of president Obama’s birth certificate. So, was Barack Obama born as US citizen, therefore legitimately entitled to be US president? “Well, who knows, really” –Perry said, or almost said. And, by being cute on this really disgraceful and openly racist issue, he became disgraceful himself. And this stupid comment became a major news item, overshadowing, at least on cable TV, whatever he had to say about tax reform.
I am afraid that Governor Perry, whatever his merits as the Texas Chief Executive, is a superficial politician, unfit for national leadership. Whatever he says, it seems as if he thought about it this morning in the shower. It all looks improvised, make it up as you go stuff. For Pete’s sake, do people decide to run for president of the United States of America on a whim? Just because it looks cute?
Wanted: serious people who thought this through and who come to the table with a carefully crafted program. On this elementary score, Governor Perry does not qualify.
Flat tax proposal should have been part of Perry’s platform from day one
And this applies to the timing of this flat tax proposal as well. Think about it. Such a significant and radical tax reform proposal should have been part of Perry’s platform from day one.
“I am running for president and this is my program. This is what I will do about taxes. This are my proposals about health care, about entitlement reform and energy. This is my foreign policy agenda“.
Well, no. First I say that I want to be president. And then, as I think through about the implications of what I just declared, I’ll come up with some substantive proposals about what I think I will do when I get elected.
This is not serious and not acceptable. Running for the highest elective office in the land is not like being a contestant in some TV show. This is not amateur hour. But Perry’s attitude seems to indicate that this was his attitude as he waltzed in. First I show up, and then I’ll think about what it means.
I am sure that clever Perry advisers put a great deal of effort in cobbling together the flat tax plan. And the plan may have value. The problem, as it often is the case, is not the message but the messenger. A would be president who comes up with a radical tax reform proposal, just as he is struggling to climb up from single digit favorable polls rating, is not a credible messenger. And that’s too bad, as the tax reform issue is truly important.
Republican amateurs, Obama demagogue. Sad picture
I hope that we can do better than this kind of dilettante work. But the other GOP contenders do not inspire much hope. Plenty more amateurs there. On the other side of the political divide, Barack Obama, elected in 2008 with the high hope that he would be America’s Healer in Chief, has turned into a demagogue intent on demonising the opposition, so that he can get re-elected.
Is this really the best this great democracy can produce?