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Thursday, May 25, 2006

The FairTax is Doomed for Failure

Last night, I was invited by a good friend to attend the FairTax Rally here in Atlanta. For those who haven't heard of it, the FairTax is a tax reform bill sponsored by Georgia Congressman John Linder that would abolish federal income and payroll tax and institute a progressive national sales tax. This plan has received a ton of attention lately because of a new book written by Congressman Linder and radio talkshow host Neal Boortz.

I don't intend to address the merits of the FairTax bill here; quite frankly I haven't read enough about it to fully understand it. Check out the FairTax website for a full description of this bill. However, I do want to address the political implications and how this bill is being presented to the public for support.

So last night this rally was held at 7:30 the Gwinnett Convention Center, which holds about 4,000 people. We arrived around 7:10 and discovered that the convention center was full and that we were not going to be able to attend. However, WSB AM 750 decided to broadcast this event live so we listened in. Guest speakers at this event included Congressman Linder, Neal Boortz, Herman Cain, ABC's 20/20 host John Stossel, and Sean Hannity.

Unfortunately as you can tell by the invitees, this was a highly partisan event. And this is the very reason why this bill will fail. It will not fail on the merits of the bill but will fail because of its proponents and the way in which it is being supported.

A bill that would dramatically overhaul the tax system of the United States is no small matter; it will require a bipartisan effort that reaches out to persuade all Americans. Unfortunately, many of the leading advocates of the FairTax are unable to do this.

For those who aren't familiar with Neal Boortz, he is a highly caustic libertarian/conservative radio talkshow host here in Atlanta. He is crass, arrogant, and rude. He certainly is not one to create dialogue with people across the political spectrum. Of course this makes for entertaining radio, but makes for bad politics. I believe that Congressman Linder has made a huge error by teaming with Boortz to push for the FairTax.

Much of the talk during the rally was meant to fire up the crowd. But I believe that it will backfire. There was much talk of "liberals" in a very negative sense. This is foolish. The only way this bill has a chance is to get bipartisan support.

And the supporters are working towards another huge mistake. Linder announced during the rally that the Speaker of the House had managed to get a meeting with President Bush for Congressman Linder to advocate for the FairTax. And the plan would be for Republicans to largely run on the FairTax in the fall.

I'm not sure how someone could better doom a bill like this. The Republicans are in for a tough fight this fall and are likely to lose seats. Using the FairTax as an election strategy ensures that it will always be viewed as a Republican bill and ties its success to the fall elections.

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