Tax the Poor to Promote Growth

Tax the Poor to Promote Growth

In today's Wall Street Journal Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona offers his cure for joblessness ("A Growth Agenda for America"). . . . He wants to lower the corporate rate and flatten the upper-end individuals rates and pay for it by simplifying the code and getting rid of targeted tax breaks. That's classic 1986-style tax reform. . . . But then Kyl adds something out of left field:

And here's something else: Every American with income should pay some level of taxes. Why? Not to raise additional revenue (the rate should be very low and payment simple), but because every American should have a stake in the cost and size of our government.

Well, contrary to Kyl's implication, most Americans already do pay taxes. The primary tax burden for low-income workers comes in the form of payroll taxes. What Kyl means to say is that all Americans should pay income taxes.

Of course, by spreading the burden of the income tax this idea would reduce political support for the income tax. It would steal votes right out from the Democratic base. It's great politics. (Admit it Democrats, don't you have secret Republican urges every year around April 15th?)

But it's lousy economics. Despite Kyl's expressed desire for this tax increase not to raise revenue or add complexity, it would necessarily raise revenue and add complexity. And it would be an added burden for American families that are struggling the most.

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View TaxAnalysts' Martin A. Sullivan's opinion in its entirety on

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