- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 2, 2012

Despite losing Tuesday’s Florida primary, Newt Gingrich showcased his voluntary, 15 percent flat tax - 2012’s smartest idea yet, both strategically and substantively. Through the Nov. 6 election, this concept can inoculate Republicans from the Democrats’ ceaseless lies about the wealthy “not paying their fare share” of taxes. If implemented, Mr. Gingrich’s plan would reinvigorate America’s feeble economy.

Amid the barbs Mr. Gingrich and Mitt Romney traded, the former House speaker made this generous-sounding comment at the Tampa debate Jan. 23: “I’m prepared to describe my 15 percent flat tax as the Mitt Romney flat tax,” Mr. Gingrich declared. “I’d like to bring everybody else down to Mitt’s rate, not try to bring him up to some other rate.”

As Mr. Gingrich further explained at the Jacksonville faceoff Jan. 26, “I have proposed an alternative flat tax that people could fill out where you could either keep the current system … with all of its deductions and all its paperwork, or you’d have a single page: ‘I earned this amount. I have this number of dependents. Here is 15 percent.’ “

Mr. Gingrich’s idea is excellent politics. President Obama and his liberal pals simply refuse to acknowledge the latest Internal Revenue Service data that irrefutably demonstrate that the oft-excoriated top 1 percent of filers in 2009 generated 16.9 percent of national income and paid 36.7 percent of income tax. Meanwhile, the Tax Policy Center reported in August that in 2011, those earning between $20,000 and $30,000 paid an effective rate of 5.7 percent in combined income, payroll, corporate and death taxes. Those who made at least $1 million paid 29.1 percent.

Nonetheless, Mr. Obama and his battalions of class warriors demand the “Buffett Rule,” which would make every millionaire pay at least a 30 percent tax rate. Presumably, this is “fairer” than letting them pay a lower percentage of their incomes in taxes than do their secretaries. Giga-wealthy investor Warren Buffett claims that he pays a smaller share of his income in taxes than does his secretary, Debbie Bosanek. Mr. Buffett could reverse this today by paying himself more than a mere $100,000 and earning less of his income in capital gains. This quickly would move him from a 15 percent rate to 35. Mr. Buffett should do this right now, or stop whining.

If Americans seek “fairness,” why hike anyone’s share of income sent to Washington? Instead, free everyone to choose an equal and lower rate. Even as an option, this would depopulate America’s tax shelters. Simplicity and much-curtailed compliance costs have their own appeal.

Even at 15 percent, the rich will pay more. For argument’s sake, someone who earns $100,000 would pay $15,000 in taxes, while someone who makes $100 million would pay $15 million. Careful calculations confirm that $15 million exceeds $15,000. The rich will pay more dollars in taxes, but as a proportion of income equal with everyone else. Hello, “fair share.”

Mr. Gingrich also would chop America’s corporate tax from 35 percent (the industrial world’s second highest, after Japan’s) to a flat 12.5 percent, which would tie Ireland’s as the lowest and most competitive among developed nations. Coupled with immediate, 100 percent expensing of capital purchases, such a stimulus would unleash dramatic economic expansion - rather than the Obama-style “stimulus” that yields bankruptcies, layoffs and FBI raids.

Compared to Mr. Gingrich’s gutsy blueprint, Mr. Romney’s exhibits the caution that has made the former Massachusetts governor the “Oh, well, if we must” choice, even among his supporters.

While Mr. Romney would ditch the death tax and cut the corporate tax to 25 percent, he would preserve today’s income-tax rates. He would scrap taxes on interest, capital gains and dividends, but - echoing Mr. Obama - only for those making less than $200,000.

Republican primary voters now face mixed messengers: Mr. Gingrich possesses a luggage carousel of personal baggage, a visionary tax plan and the courage of Godzilla. Mr. Romney presents a mere tote bag of quirks, a tepid tax proposal and the bravery of a hummingbird.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford’s Hoover Institution.