Supplemental: What is Carson proposing on taxes?


Bartiromo, Cavuto should ask:
What sorts of "crazy" budget proposals will get examined tonight?

Consider Chuck Todd's recent discussion with the Candidate Fiorina. Their brief discussion was shown, on tape, on Sunday's Meet the Press.

Todd began with a small complaint. He noted that Fiorina doesn't have a full-blown budget proposal:
TODD (11/8/15): We've already heard from three of the main outsider candidates for president today. Yesterday, I caught up with another, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina.

And I asked her why she is one of just two candidates who have yet to release a detailed tax plan, or, frankly, any policy plans on her Web site. Here's her answer.
Fiorina has presented no detailed tax plan, Todd said. Presumably, the other slacker to whom Todd referred is the front-running Candidate Carson.

Why hasn't Fiorina presented a budget plan? Her initial answer bordered on the absurd:
FIORINA (continuing directly): Well, let me disagree with the premise of your question.

How often do politicians put out detailed plans? How often do they get enacted?

Never! That's the problem.
Politicians put out detailed plans for all kinds of things, it never happens. But if you go to the Web site, what you can do is ask a question and you will see me answering the question in public, verbally. In other words, I am being held accountable.

A plan—anybody can write a plan. Anybody can put a plan on a Web site. It's another thing to say, "You know what I think we need do?" and say it over and over again in public and be held accountable for this.

You know what I think we need to do? We need to go from a 73,000 page tax code, which is what we have today, with 4,000 changes since 2001 and we need to get it down to about three. And what that means is we need to close every loophole and lower every rate. Maybe there are two or three loopholes—
At that point, Todd interrupted. Here's what was wrong so far:

First, politicians do present, and then enact, detailed budget plans. In Campaign 2000, Candidate Bush presented a detailed tax plan. In 2001, it was formally proposed, and then enacted, with very few major changes.

Beyond that, Fiorina's presentation didn't make much sense. If she will tell us what her budget plan is, why can't she just write it down?

In fact, what she's saying is quite vague where the rubber meets the road. Improbably, Fiorina says we should reduce the tax code from 73,000 pages down to just three. To do that, she says we need to "close every loophole and lower every rate."

Todd should have stopped her right there. Would she really get rid of every "loophole"--of every deduction which helps create that lengthy tax code?

She seemed to say she would retain a few. Would she get rid of the standard deduction? We ask that question for a reason, as we'll note below.

Second point: Fiorina said she would "lower every tax rate" as part of the process of winnowing down the tax code. That said, lowering tax rates doesn't simplify or shorten the tax code. (She may simply mean that she would lower tax rates to offset the loss of all those deductions.)

Which "loopholes" would Fiorina retain? the question is very important. When Todd broke in, he challenged her in a sensible way. But in the end, she simply restated her previous formula:
TODD: So we shouldn't expect a tax plan out of you any time soon, on paper?

FIORINA: I've given you a tax plan. I've given you a tax plan. It needs to be three pages. And the only way to get there is to lower every rate and close every loophole.
This time around, Fiorina brooked no exceptions. She'll close every "loophole," she said. She'll lower every rate.

Given her recent drop in the polls, Fiorina doesn't seem especially viable at this point. She doesn't seem to going anywhere. Candidate Carson still is.

Carson is leading many GOP polls. Here's why we would have liked to see Todd ask Fiorina about specific "loopholes:"

It sounds to us like Candidate Carson wants to dump the standard deduction in the course of enacting his single-rate tax. Here's how he described his plan two months ago, at the first GOP debate:
CARSON (8/6/15): We need a significantly changed taxation system. And the one that I've advocated is based on tithing, because I think God is a pretty fair guy.

And he said, you know, "If you give me a tithe, it doesn't matter how much you make.
If you've had a bumper crop, you don't owe me triple tithes. And if you've had no crops at all, you don't owe me no tithes." So there must be something inherently fair about that.

And that's why I've advocated a proportional tax system. You make $10 billion, you pay a billion. You make $10, you pay one. And everybody gets treated the same way. And you get rid of the deductions, you get rid of all the loopholes, and—


BAIER: Governor Bush?

CARSON: And I have a lot more to say about it.
Candidate Carson has sometimes said that it's "condescending" to the poor to treat them differently within the tax code. It sounds to us like he would do without the standard deduction, the way God did back in the day.

Presumably, that would massively increase the federal tax burden on the bottom half of the income scale. This man is leading the Republican polls. Could someone possibly ask him about his basic ideas in this area?

Three months ago, Carson said he had "a lot more to say about" federal taxes. As of today, the cupboard at his web site is almost completely bare concerning his tax proposals.

Carson is proposing a major overhaul of the tax system. Fox Business is running tonight's debate. Bartiromo and Cavuto should get off their ascots and ask what he plans to do.

Will they ask him about the trillions of dollars he would move around in tax policy? Or will they ask about the ten-dollar bill he says that professor once gave him?

Given the press corps' "plutocrat bias," can anyone really be sure?


  1. It depends on the tax changes. Right now, if you make $10 in wages, you pay 76.5 cents in payroll tax. However, you get much of that back (and then some if you have kids) in the EIC. Right now a single person making $12,000 (slightly below the poverty line) would pay $170 in federal income tax plus $918 in FICA taxes. His EIC would be about $155 (using a table from 2012) (it was handy).

    Currently there are deductions for IRAs and also form 8880 which I can use to reduce my taxes. If you figure the employer portion as part of the taxes then a poor person with no children can be paying more than 10% under our current system. Less so, for people with children, who are heavily favored by the current system.

    1. People get those FICA deductions back later in the form of social security and Medicare. They are the bulk of what the poor person pays but it directly benefits the individual. Carson wants to eliminate those benefits.

  2. If it's only 3 pages, shouldn't be too difficult to write it down!

    1. She's from HP and is basing "3 pages" on EULA agreements:

      The tax plan will be presented in 1 point type.

    2. Three is the magic number when people make up stories. Three bears, three stooges, three days of the condor. Three shall be the number of the counting. Neither shall it be four, and five is right out. So three shall be the number of the pages.

  3. I agree with Bob and commenters here that President Fiorina couldn't get the IRS code down to 3 pages. And, President Trump couldn't run the government on the reduced level of taxes he proposes.

    However, I see these as aspirational goals. They can be interpreted as meaning that Fiorina wants to simplify the tax code. And, Trump wants to cut taxes by some amount, or, at least, not raise them.

    If a Democratic candidate proposed, e.g., wiping out rape on campus, that would be an aspirational goal. I think Bob and commenters would approve of that goal, even though eliminating all rape is impossible. They would rightly interpret such a pledge as actually meaning that the candidate would have a particular focus on campus rape.

    1. D in C, this is an invalid analogy. Everybody would aspire to eliminatge rape on campus (except maybe the rapists), murder, arson, etc, but no one would suggest that crime, literally, could be completely eradicated. On the other hand, the extreme wing of the GOP, that has basically taken over the party, is dead serious about its tax proposals. For example, the estate (or should I say the "death") tax can literally be eliminated and these other crazy proposals enacted with a GOP president and enough of a majority in congress.

  4. O.K., once again I'm asking how Bob Somerby envisions a useful discussion about tax plans would go during a debate. How, exactly, should the moderator phrase a question that will reveal that a candidate's tax plan is crazy? Or if the moderator is suppose to first set up the candidate before zinging him or her with a follow-up, what should that follow-up question be?

    Here was Somerby's challenge:

    [QUOTE]>>> Carson is proposing a major overhaul of the tax system. Fox Business is running tonight's debate. Bartiromo and Cavuto should get off their ascots and ask what he plans to do.

    Will they ask him about the trillions of dollars he would move around in tax policy? <<<[END QUOTE]

    Here was Cavuto's response [LINK]:



      CAVUTO: Welcome back to the Republican presidential debate live from Milwaukee. Let's get back to the questions. And we want to touch on obviously one of the biggest of this issue in this year, taxes. And this will go to several of you.

      One of the biggest economic concerns of course in the country are taxes. Facebook data certainly backs that up. Once again the green on this map that we're going to see here shows how the conversation around taxes is resonating across the nation, especially here in Wisconsin.

      First off, Dr. Carson, to you. You say you are in favor of a tax system, I guess akin to tithing, sir, with a flat tax rate of up to 15 percent because you said, if everybody pays this, I think God is a pretty fair guy, so tithing is a pretty fair process.

      But Donald Trump says that is not fair. That wealthier taxpayers should pay a higher rate because it's a fair thing to do. So whose plan would God endorse then, Doctor?


      Yours or Mr. Trump's?

      CARSON: Well, you know, when I say tithing, I'm talking about the concept of proportionality.

      CAVUTO: Right.

      CARSON: Everybody should pay the same proportion of what they make. You make $10 billion, you pay a billion. You make $10, you pay one. You get same rights and privileges.

      I don't see how anything gets a whole lot fairer than that. But you also have to get rid of all the deductions and all the loopholes because that is the thing that tilts it in one direction or another. And you have to set the rate at an appropriate level.

      Now I will say that, there are a lot of people who say, if you get rid of the deductions, you ruin the American dream because, you know, home mortgage deduction. But the fact of the matter is, people had homes before 1913 when we introduced the federal income tax, and later after that started deductions.

      And they say there will be no more charitable giving. We had churches before that and charitable organizations before that. The fact of the matter is, I believe if you put more money in people's pockets that they will actually be more generous rather than less generous. And it's...


      ... the money that they earned.

      And, the other thing is, I do care about the poor people. And in the system that we're putting together, there will be a rebate for people at the poverty level. But I also want to emphasize the fact that as we get the economy moving, and I hope I get a question about how do we get the economy moving, there will be a lot more opportunities for poor people not to be poor people because this is America.

      This is the land of dreams. And our policies should be aimed at allowing people to realize that dream.


      CAVUTO: Thank you very much.

      Senator Paul, you said you want to blow up the tax code and start over with an across-the-board 14.5 percent fair and flat tax. You happily offered that it is not revenue neutral and that's the idea. You want to choke off the amount of money coming into Washington.

      But don't you risk, sir, creating a near-term budget crisis just as your presidency would be beginning?

      PAUL: Well, it's a great question, Neil, and thanks for including me in the tax debate.... <<<[END QUOTE]

    2. Here's another question I have. Would giving the devil her due get entered in the tithe column? I'm asking because I have to concede that Rachel Maddow was outstanding at this past Friday's Democratic Candidate Forum [LINK] during her sit down with Martin O'Malley and pretty good with the one she did with Bernie Sanders, also. (True, when Hillary Clinton showed up, Maddow reverted back to corporate infotainer mode but two out of three ain't bad.)

    3. I await Bob's minute by minute coverage of the two week old CNBC debate. I hope it is as good as the minute by minute coverage of the other debates held before it.

    4. Somerby mentioned that Fiorina dropped the "L" bomb in the undercard debate back in August. What more do you want?

  5. As stated at HuffPo:

    Analysts at the Congressional Research Service conducted a thorough literature review in 2014 and concluded that "both labor supply and savings and investment are relatively insensitive to tax rates."

    That means simply lowering taxes is not going to stimulate sufficient growth to offset the decreased revenues.

    1. Huffinton Post has an awful picture of Clinton grimacing and shaking her fist at a veteran.

    2. The headline I see says "2016 Dems React to GOP Debate" but the picture of Clinton is truly awful.

  6. I guess the question about God endorsing a tax plan will satisy Bob Somerby's demands that the FOX moderators get off their ascots.

    1. Exactly. What more could anyone want?

      The GOP was asked, and it answered: oh we're gonna lower those taxes, those taxes are holding everyone down, we'll reduce them taxes for ya folks!

      And the moderators smiled and moved on.

    2. This may not look like Liberal bias.

    3. [QUOTE]>>> ...And the moderators smiled and moved on. <<[END QUOTE]

      True that (sic), but theoretically what precisely would be the follow-up question that, if asked, would expose one of those plans as impractical?

  7. The candidates in the pre-debate were using a tactic of labeling each other "liberal" and then claiming to be the only true conservative in the bunch.

    1. I think the Yale paper should have taken their picture and given them $10 for showing up.