Republican presidential candidate Texas Governor Rick Perry released a 20 percent flat tax plan — he called it “Cut, Balance, And Grow” — on Tuesday that if enacted would provide massive windfalls for the wealthiest Americans, privatize and shrink entitlement programs, all while gutting federal revenues and thus paving the way for more cuts to social programs.
Speaking to conservative primary voters in Gray Court, S.C., Perry cast his as a bold and unconventional approach that would shake up the status quo and grow the economy. And to be sure, the proposal, which includes raising the retirement age for Social Security and big cuts to Medicare, would arrive with a bang on Capitol Hill, where a Social Security privatization scheme like the one he offers was rejected when George W. Bush offered it to a Republican Congress in 2005.
“America is under a crushing burden of debt, and the president simply offers larger deficits and the politics of class division,” Perry said. “Others simply offer microwaved plans with warmed-over reforms based on current ingredients.”
But many policy analysts are already raising the alarm over a plan that, because it would allow taxpayers to choose between the current tax code and the new flat tax, would likely cripple the federal budget.
“The tax plan is mainly a massive tax cut for the richest people in the country that would cause a sharp drop in revenues,” Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, told The National Memo.
The plan would “cut taxes for wealthy people and pay for them with cuts in Social Security and Medicare and really cost the government. [The plan includes] an 18 percent [of GDP] cap on spending. That’s a harsh cut.”
Most flat tax proposals require all Americans to participate, meaning the tax cuts for the wealthy (who now pay around 35 percent income tax) are paid for by hiking rates on middle and lower income Americans. But the voluntary nature of this proposal likely means most Americans of average or little means would choose to remain in the current system — and thus federal revenues would plummet compared to the baseline.
The plan would practically ensure a “a dismantling of federal programs” and “draconian cuts in virtually every kind of spending,” James Horney, the vice president for fiscal policy at CBPP, told The New York Times.
What’s more, the plan, presented under the auspices of encouraging economic growth, rehashes the failed “trickle down” approach Republicans have been pushing since at least 1980.
“There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that lower taxes on the wealthy leads to stronger economic growth,” said Michael Linden, director for tax and budget policy at the Center for American Progress. “And we just lived through 20 years where we had a sort of experiment. In the ’90s, under Clinton, where we had higher taxes on rich people, and then the 2000s, under Bush, with lower rates on the rich. And we all know what happened.”
Then again, with his greatest competitor looking to be Herman Cain, whose tax plan calls for a flat rate of 9 percent, perhaps Perry’s will be an appealing middle ground for Republican primary voters. Indeed, it seems to have been crafted with the public attacks on Herman Cain’s plan — that many lower income Americans would be compelled to pay more — in mind.