Rick Perry is taking a beating in the latest presidential primary polls. Rasmussen Reports on Thursday released a survey placing businessman Herman Cain at the head of the pack and the Lone Star State governor in sixth place. If there was ever a time for Mr. Perry to make a bold policy proposal, it's now. He's about to do just that.
Mr. Cain's rise to stardom can be traced in large measure to his fundamental tax-reform plan known as "9-9-9." It would lower income and corporate taxes and add a new national sales tax. Mr. Perry would jettison the existing tax system, but he'd go about it in a different way.
"The governor wants to restructure the tax system to be simpler, flatter and fairer," campaign spokesman Catherine Frazier told The Washington Times. "He'll be releasing the details on the flat tax in his economic growth proposal on Tuesday."
FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey thinks this could revive Mr. Perry's campaign. "The flat tax does more for Perry's candidacy than anything else he could have done," the former House majority leader told The Washington Times in an interview. "If Perry really means it, and he gets elected and makes it the top priority of his presidency, it would be the single best thing that could be done to spur economic growth and job creation in public policy today."
Mr. Armey, who has championed the idea since his 1984 election to Congress, plans to advise his fellow Texan not to focus on "revenue neutrality." By eliminating all but the standard deductions, the tax base ought to be broad enough to support a rate of 17 percent. "If that leaves a deficit, then cut the size of government," said Mr. Armey.
With one rate for individuals and companies, a flat tax would get rid of the double taxation on capital gains and dividends that serves as a disincentive to investment. If structured properly, filling out a 1040 under a flat tax would take only a matter of minutes.
Unlike a national sales tax, the flat tax would not create an underground economy of sales taking place off the books to avoid the levy. It also removes the incentive for Congress to continually ratchet up the rate, as has happened with Europe's value-added tax.
"The advantage of the single income-tax rate is that no one in Washington would dare to raise it - it takes the class warfare out of it," explained Mr. Armey. "I'd say to President Obama, 'What could be more fair than treating everyone the same way?' "
The rest of the Republican field needs to follow the lead of Mr. Cain and Mr. Perry and get involved in the fundamental overhaul of the tax system. This change is long overdue, and it's exactly what this nation needs to get out from under the economic slump left from three years of Mr. Obama's tax-and-borrow-and-spend policies.
Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.
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