James Joyner At Outside The Beltway has a long and thoughtful yet highly snarky reaction to Bartlett's Wall Street Journal column.
Despite my strong intuitive sense that a consumption based tax is more fair and efficient than one based on income, I’m prepared to admit that I don’t understand the economics and logistics of implementation enough to truly assess the costs and benefits. It may well be, for example, that a too-high sales tax would encourage a huge black market. And it may well be that state income tax filing requirements, the need to rebate money or otherwise exempt the very poor, and other hurdles will offset many of the supposed efficiency advantages.
Bartlet’s argument, however, is simply nonsensical.
His subheadline asks the rhetorical question, “Does adding 30% to the price of every house sold sound like a good idea to you?” He then goes on to argue that the specific FairTax proposal advocated by Mike Huckabee would require a 30 percent surcharge on everything to be revenue neutral.
That sounds horrible, right?
But . . . um . . . it’s revenue neutral. So, we’re already paying the equivalent of a 30 percent surcharge on everything? The only difference would be that, rather than having the amount of we pay tax hidden by collecting in multiple ways and then having an arcane filing system nobody without a CPA actually understands is that it would be transparent. Why’s that a bad thing?
Joyner doesn't understand the Fair Tax plan fully, but understands enough to see Bartlett isn't being fully honest, at least. The comment thread has some people that know their stuff, though.
Neal Boortz of course has a sharp rebuttal to the column:
In another astonishing falsehood Bartlett says that the cost of providing the prebate to every household in America is not factored into the FairTax rate. He says it would cost at least $600 billion the first year. Again, Bartlett is just flat wrong. The cost of the rebate most certainly was included in the 23 percent rate. Congressman Linder tells me that if the rebate had not been included the FairTax rate could have been lowered to 18 percent. The fact is that the rebate is projected to cost 5 percent, and that 5 percent is most certainly included in the rate.
Bartlett makes another huge mistake(?) regarding the prebate. He says that the FairTax sends monthly checks to every household based on income. Then he speaks of the "complexity and intrusiveness of tracking every American's monthly income .." Wrong ... completely and absolutely wrong. As anyone who has read the book knows, the prebate is not based on income, it's based on family size. There is no need to track anyone's monthly income. The only thing the government needs is a valid Social Security number and the number of people in the household.
Then, of course, Bartlett gets into the question of whether or not you can fund the federal government at present levels with a 23 percent inclusive sales tax rate. He cites numerous sources that say the tax rate would have to be much higher than 23 percent.
Know this ... in every case where some individual or organization has come forward to say that the tax rate would have to be higher than 23 percent, they have first changed the terms of the FairTax. That is, they have created exemptions. For instance, they assume that congress would never agree to tax food and medicines, therefore the tax would have to be XX percent, or that congress wouldn't tax transportation and housing, therefore the tax would have to be XX percent. Again .. the fact that the taxes are already there in the form of embedded taxes – embedded taxes to be replaced by the fair tax – is ignore. All publicity is good publicity, as long as people are willing to seek out the rebuttals.