Taxes Policy in Short
*To read the policy in full, see further below
"The tax code book in D.C. now has over 15,000 pages (honest). Hasn't the whole thing has gotten, oh, a little out of control?"
Dramatically shrink the federal government (in waste and scope).
Simplified Progressive Tax and easy one-page form.
"Let's Help More" voluntary tax fund.
Each taxpayer designates where some of their money goes (environment, social programs, military...).
National Sales Tax to cover 30% of Federal Government spending.
"Simple Rebate System" for socially responsible purchases (like residential wind turbines) or socially responsible activity (like organic farming).
Taxes Position Paper
“We have a tax code book in D.C. that’s bigger than L.A.’s phone book,” said Schriner.
–Plain Dealer newspaper, St. James, Minnesota.
The following categories are covered in the paper below. 1) The Issues; 2) The Plan; 3) Shrinking the Federal Government; 4) Simplified Progressive Tax and One-Page Form; 5) Tax Paying as: “a Privilege”; 6) Taxpayer Choice in Funding Programs; 7) National Sales Tax; 8) Rebate System
1) The Issues
We have what seems to be almost runaway Federal Government spending at this point (we’re in trillions of dollars of debt). Or broken down, to balance the National Budget, each citizen – man, woman, child – would currently have to pay: $124,000, according to a USA Today article.
I recently told the Delphos (OH) News that while not knowing about anyone else, I wasn’t sure how “I was going to come up with that kind of money.”
In America, we also have a runaway tax code that is virtually out of control in its scope and complexity. The tax law has grown from 11,400 words in 1913 to 7 million words today.
There are at least 480 different tax forms. And even the easiest form, the 1040E has 33 pages of instructions – all in fine print. The IRS sends out 8 billion pages of forms each year. Laid end to end, they would stretch 28 times around the earth.
And American taxpayers spend $200 billion and 5.4 billion hours working to comply with federal taxes each year.
Need I say more?
This is a formula for a tremendous amount of stress in the general American populace, a lot of time detracted from faith, family and community, and the outlay of money (in CPA fees, as an example) that we feel could be much better spent on environmental causes, social justice causes, and the like.
Added to all this, the dominant paradigm in the country is to pay the least amount of tax money possible, so paradoxically, the general populace is helping fuel all this complexity with their desire for yet more and more loopholes and exemptions – which leads to yet longer, more complicated forms.
And if all this isn’t bad enough, the individual taxpayer has virtually no direct say in where any of his/her tax money goes.
2) The Plan
We propose shrinking the Federal Government dramatically through the cutting and/or down sizing of many programs that would be better administered on a local level, or not at all. And we would try to inspire tremendously stepped up church giving to, in concert with the Government aid, help the disadvantaged and marginalized in society much more.
We also propose a Simplified Progressive Tax with an easy one-page form. Social justice wise, the progressive tax would be more advantageous to people in the lower socio-economic classes in this country. And the easy to decipher one-page form (without exemptions or loopholes) would save significant time and money in CPA fees, etc. And we would recommend the curtailment of most exemptions and loopholes, period.
We would also work to create an atmosphere where way more people felt it was a “privilege” to give tax money to a Federal Government that was intent on significantly helping the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, the environment… And we propose a “Let’s Help More Fund” to inspire people to give beyond what they owe in taxes.
And if they opt for this, these people would be allowed to say to which Federal Programs (military, environment, social…) their additional money would go. Likewise we believe to make it a more democratic society, every individual tax payer should have a direct say in where at least one-fourth of their tax money goes. And there would be a section on the one-page form to designate this.
We believe giving people more direct decision making in the Federal Government will increase their participation in the political process, whether studying up more on the programs and/or lobbying more for the programs they’ve gotten behind.
To supplement the Simplified Progressive Tax revenue, we would also propose a National Sales Tax on new items, which would be intended to cover 30% of Government spending needs.
And finally, we propose a simple rebate system to help inspire people to do socially responsible things, such as purchasing wind turbines, solar panels, hybrid cars… to help the environment.
3) Shrinking the Federal Government
At the front end of our tax proposal would be a dramatic decrease in Federal Government spending. This, in turn (once the current extremely large National Debt is paid off), would mean significantly less Federal tax for Americans across the board.
As just some examples of these cut backs:
We, for instance, would push for cutting military spending in half. (Military spending currently accounts for some 51% of the Federal Budget.)
We would also recommend a huge decrease in the need for Federal Transportation funds. And in its place, we would suggest a toll system for all Federal Highways. (See our Transportation position paper.)
We also would recommend ending the Space Program, which would save billions of dollars and stop what is more about American hubris and “conquering space” that isn’t ours to conquer, than it is about sensibility.
With stepped up scrutiny, driven by common sense, we would also exhaustively work to expose “pork barrel” federally funded projects in states across the U.S., as well as direct Federal Government waste. And we would promote a “Leaner America Campaign,” designed to help move the populace away from an “excess mentality” to a much more “streamlined” one.
And to spell the number, and excessively large size, of many of the federally-funded social programs, we would work hard to inspire a return to 10% (or more) tithing in American churches. (According to the LA Times, the current per person charitable giving in the Protestant churches is 2.6% and 1.2% in the Catholic Church.)
In Rosamond, California, Sue Macisaac told me she believed that when the churches in America abdicated much of their responsibility to take care of the disadvantaged; it’s as if our “tithing” now goes to the government for programs like Welfare.
It is our belief there should be a robust mix between church and government help that can provide a comprehensive safety net, for all. But we believe, at present (and as the Times article indicates), American churches for the most part aren’t doing enough.
And while we couldn’t legislate more church giving, we could hold up the following model to the churches as an example.
On a stop in Bellingham, Massachusetts, we researched St. Blaize Catholic Church. Its members average a phenomenal 17% tithing per person. A significant amount of their money goes to a nun doing outreach to one of the poorest Indian Reservations in Montana and to an orphanage in Uganda.
St. Blaize parishioner Phyllis Calvey told me she would hear about how the money went to help in some touching way, and each month she’d write a poignant essay that would be included with the passing out of that month’s tithing envelopes.
One parishioner said as he read the stories and saw how his money was directly helping impact the needy he naturally wanted to give more. Church giving no longer seemed like just “paying another bill.”
Again, the combination of these realignments and cut backs would tremendously shrink the Federal Government, and in turn, tax outlay.
4) Simplified Progressive Tax and a One-Page Form
To cover much of the Federal costs that would remain after shrinking the Federal Government considerably, and as a way to tremendously simplify the tax paying process, we propose a Simplified Progressive Tax with an easy one-page-form.
We met with Professor John Hart at Carroll College during a campaign stop in Helena, Montana. He teaches classes on social justice. Professor Hart told us he believes a progressive tax is the fairest and most social justice oriented for those on the lower end of the socio-economic strata in America.
We do too.
In a nutshell (and these are merely arbitrary figures): those in the lower-middle-class would pay 7% of their income; those considered middle-class would pay 10%, those in the upper-middle-class would pay 15%… (The actual percentages would be set commensurate with projections for what the Federal Government would actually need in a particular year.)
The tax form itself would be a one-page-form that would be easily decipherable for most everyone. And any tax cut loopholes and exemptions would be eliminated.
Instead, there would be a simple rebate system to promote more socially responsible activity and purchases. (That system is outlined later in this paper.)
We would push to eliminate the tax loopholes and exemptions, because they not only tremendously complicate the forms, they also often complicate peoples’ lives. That is as noted at the top of this section, people these days seem to be forever spending all kinds of time saving and recording tremendous amounts of data for these tax categories.
They then often have to take all the data to a certified public accountant where there is more time spent going over the data, as well as often a significant amount of money spent on consulting fees. (And if it’s a business, many company accountants spend exorbitant amounts of time – much of it wasted, we believe – focused on a plethora of loophole and exemption issues.)
In Ludington, Michigan, we met with John Claire, a former city prosecutor there. He explained that his son was a U.S. Congressman who, with Newt Gingrich, co-sponsored a Flat Tax Bill (with a simple one-page-form).
Claire said the reason this tax and simple one-page-form wouldn’t fly is that it would have put too many certified public accountants (and some lawyers) out of work.
Not a good enough reason, we think.
And frankly, there are more meaningful professions than being a cog in a system that’s gotten progressively more convoluted and focused on, well: individual selfishness.
5) Tax Paying as: “a Privilege”
In Tehachapi, California, we met with Kelly Rogers who majored in Economics at the University of California at Berkley. She was an enrolled agent with the IRS and had a business and consulting firm in the Bay area where she consistently worked with taxes.
She said the current orientation in America is, basically, that “it’s all about me.” So politicians, primarily, run on the platform “it’s all about you.”
How this translates in the tax world is that more and more loopholes and exemption are continually being sought, and created, so people (often the more privileged) can keep as much money as possible for themselves.
This is often driven by selfishness.
Rogers said she believes sound civic, and spiritual, principle would be that people see their giving to the Government as “a privilege,” and as the civically responsible thing to do. That is, funding programs to help the poor, to help the environment, to help the elderly, the handicapped… should be considered desirable.
With this orientation, looking for loopholes and exemptions would seem, at best, disjointed.
In this same vein, not only would we push for forgoing the loopholes and exemptions, our administration would propose a “Let’s Help More Fund” to inspire people to give more than the taxes they owe in a given year. And if they opted for this, they could designate where all their additional money would go, whether to the military, the environment, social programs, Law Enforcement and General Government, Social Security, Foreign Aid…
We think adding the dimension of “voluntary giving” to the Federal Government simply makes sense, common sense.
6) Taxpayer Choice in Funding Programs
What we also think makes sense in a democratic society is that most every taxpayer gets more of a say in where at least some of their tax money goes.
During a talk at Bluffton College, in Bluffton, Ohio, I outlined our plan for this. I said on the one page tax form we propose, there would be a section that explained you could designate (if you wanted to) where one-fourth of the tax money you owed went.
You could, for instance, designate that 40% (of the one-fourth) went to Federal programs for the environment, 40% to social programs, and 20% to the military. [The idea for taxpayers designating where some of their money goes came from Will Mehring, during an interview with him in Los Osos, California.]
Not only would this add to the true “democratic” nature of the country, but we believe it would inspire some people to become much more active in the political process. That is, if the general populace has more of a say in where some of their tax money goes, some will be more apt to study up on various programs in the areas they’re thinking about funding.
And these people then would be just as apt, we believe, to actually lobby (letters and calls to their representatives, letters to the editor, public demonstrations…) for the programs they not only believe in, but have financially backed.
What’s more, Kingsport, Tennessee’s John Andrivilli told me he believed to have the privilege to designate where some of your tax money goes, you would have to demonstrate you’ve voted in whatever the last election in your area was. We think that is an excellent idea as well and it would help increase voter participation – which has been steadily declining in this country.
To verify a vote in the last election, our administration would propose polling places offer a simple receipt validating the person had voted. And this receipt could be attached to the one-page tax form when sent back in.
7) National Sales Tax
In tandem with the Simplified Progressive Tax, we would also propose a National Sales Tax to generate at least 30% of the revenue the Federal Government needs to run.
Kelly Rogers, the Economics major from U.C. Berkley who was mentioned earlier in this paper, said she believed a National Sales Tax is quite “egalitarian.” That is, the people with the most money, who are purchasing the most things – would inherently pay the most in taxes.
In addition, during Campaign 2000 I told the Bangor (ME) Daily News that we have become a “consumption society” focused more on financial wealth than social health. Many people are on ascendant treadmills rushing to make more to buy more at the expense of time with their faith, their children and their community.
And we currently manufacture many of these consumer items by burning fossil fuels that tremendously pollute the environment.
We believe the additional tax will make some think twice about their purchases. And, with fewer purchases, there are less items to use, maintain, polish… leaving more time, again, for faith, family and community.
This, too, is an area where the American churches could step in a lot more.
Because big, new appliance purchases, for instance, could be rather expensive with retail prices coupled with State (if applicable) and Federal taxes, those in the lower socio-economic classes are going to need more help.
In Deming, New Mexico, we interviewed Gerry Leanhardt who established a St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Store there for big and small appliances. He said people would donate their old appliances and a group of volunteers would refurbish them. They would then be sold at extremely reasonable, and affordable (some were given away free) prices, not only helping out those in need, but spiritually benefiting all those who helped.
What’s more, there would be no National Sales Tax on these items.
For the past 15 years, Tomas Wright has been helping lead a push for a National Sales Tax. We met with Wright at a conference in Orlando, Florida.
He explained the National Sales Tax would only be on new items (food, clothing, cars, homes…) and services. Each state would collect the tax along with their state sales tax – and then a uniform percentage would be sent to D.C. each year.
In Wright’s plan, people living below the poverty line would receive a “pre-bate” check from the government each month to help them cover the expenses of an additional tax. (Just like people below the poverty level now are often exempt from a good deal of income tax.)
8) Rebate System
We do propose “tax breaks” to help inspire socially responsible actions to better the society, but each would come as a direct “rebate.”
For instance, to promote the use of more clean renewable energy, there might be a rebate of 20% on the purchase of, say, a residential wind turbine.
So if the wind turbine costs $1,000, you’d send the Federal Government a copy of the receipt and receive (in a timely fashion) $200.
This would be the same for things like the purchase of hybrid cars, organic seed for a farm, solar panels…