‘Fair Tax’ supporters say attacks are unfair

A proposed consumption tax has taken center stage in the political debate in western Colorado, as well as across the state and nation, as Democrats have taken Republicans to task for supporting the idea.

Republicans, along with some non-partisan supporters of the so-called Fair Tax, which is a form of a consumption tax that would replace the income, payroll and other taxes, have branded the attacks as misrepresentations and unfair.

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., both have attacked their GOP opponents for supporting “a new 23 percent tax on everything.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also have pitched in with similar ads accusing the Republicans in the race of supported a “new 23 percent tax on everything.”

The accusation, however, is at best half-right, according to FairTax.org, which advocates for the federal sales tax.

Attacks on the tax “conveniently leave out the fact that we also want to eliminate the income tax, payroll tax, death tax” and so on, said Phil Hinson, national spokesman for FairTax.org.

Critics also leave out a major feature of the proposal, which is a rebate on taxes for necessities, such as groceries, Hinson said.
“They are very disingenuous,” and organizations such as FactCheck.org have said as much, Hinson said.

No matter whether the Fair Tax “is a good idea or a bad idea, characterizing it as a 23 percent sales tax without also mentioning that it would replace all other federal taxes is a deception,” FactCheck.org said in an analysis of attacks on supporters.

FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee pointed to a Fact Check.org posting in 2007 in which it cited findings that a Fair Tax would be levied on new homes, interest on a variety of loans, doctor bills, utilities and other expenses, as many of the ads cite.
Ultimately, the Fair Tax would be a 30 percent tax, not the 23 percent advertised, FactCheck.org concluded.

“We found that, whatever Americans for Fair Taxation’s intentions, there remains much confusion about the Fair Tax,” FactCheck.org said.
Americans for Fair Taxation, which supports the Fair Tax, disputed FactCheck.org’s findings about on the way the tax would work.
In any case, in an April 10 posting, FactCheck.org again weighed in on attack ads targeting supporters of the Fair Tax.

“But whether the Fair Tax is a good idea or a bad idea, characterizing it as a 23 percent sales tax without also mentioning that it would replace all other federal taxes is a deception,” FactCheck.org said.
Scott Tipton, the Cortez Republican who is challenging Salazar for the 3rd Congressional District, is shying away from outright support for the consumption tax, having learned from his 2006 bid for Salazar’s seat that the attacks have sting.

Tipton supported the Fair Tax in 2006 and was soundly defeated by Salazar in an anti-GOP wave that gave control of Congress to Democrats.

Now, with a turn in the political winds, the Salazar campaign is attacking Tipton on the tax and quoting the Bush administration’s findings about the idea.

A commission appointed by President George W. Bush found that a consumption tax would have to be 34 percent instead of 23 percent to bring in the same amount of money as the current system. Many of the commission’s findings were repeated by FactCheck.org in 2007.

Pressed by Republican opponent Bob McConnell during in their primary election to renew his pledge to support the Fair Tax, Tipton acknowledged that he had supported the proposal in 2006, but insisted he wasn’t running on it in 2010. On Friday, he said tax policy was less important than improving employment in the United States and referred to his plan to cut the capital-gains and corporate taxes to 10 percent each and reduce discretionary nondefense spending by 10 percent.

Tipton’s website, http://www.votetipton.com, says only that he would cut taxes and eliminate the inheritance tax, which is one of the taxes that would be eliminated under the Fair Tax idea.

Salazar’s website, http://www.salazarforcongress.com, makes no mention of tax policy, but does cite his support for legislation called PAYGO, which says no new spending or tax cuts can be approved unless they are paid for with spending reductions or revenue elsewhere in the budget. Salazar has voted for a yearlong extension of the Bush tax cuts, his campaign noted.

Tipton, however, has said Salazar has voted three times to increase the debt ceiling.

“John is very concerned that Tipton said during his primary that he would push for a 23 percent tax hike if he was elected, especially when President Bush’s commission reported that a 23 percent tax increase would be devastating to taxpayers,” Salazar spokeswoman Tara Trujillo said.

Buck, tagged by Bennet as a supporter of the Fair Tax, notes on his website, http://www.buckforcolorado.com, that he has signed the Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which commits signers to oppose any effort to increase federal incomes taxes on individuals or corporations.

Bennet on his website, http://www.bennetforsenate.com, advocates no major changes to federal tax policy, but does call for targeted tax cuts to middle- class families and small businesses “that are struggling the most under the weight of this recession; and to developing industries, like new energy, that have the potential to create jobs and spark real economic growth.”

Bennet also calls for closure of tax loopholes “that serve no purpose and simply allow some institutions to avoid paying their fair share.”
Attacks based on the Fair Tax might not have been death blows to their victims, Hinson said.

The attack ads work well in areas where voters are unfamiliar with the Fair Tax, he said. In areas where the tax is better known, “they backfire.”


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