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Is the U.S. Moving Toward a Flat Tax?

Is the U.S. Moving Toward a Flat Tax?According to Tufts economist Brian Roach, the Bush administration’s tax cuts are shifting the country closer to a flat-tax system. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.04.03] In 1996, Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes ran on a platform promoting a flat tax for American workers. When he failed to win the nomination, his proposal quickly faded. But according to an economist at Tufts, the idea of a flat tax hasn't disappeared-in fact, recent tax cuts may be moving the U.S. toward the flat tax model.

"Another significant tax cut could be enough to eliminate progressivity from the U.S. tax system," Brian Roach, a research associate at Tufts' Global Development and Environment Institute, told The Christian Science Monitor.

Long supported by conservatives, a flat tax model means that the middle class would contribute as large a share of the U.S. tax base as millionaires and billionaires do. Liberals argue that this plan is regressive, and fails to consider the needs of poorer Americans.

Roach -- author of a new analysis of the U.S. tax system -- says that even though no flat tax has been officially implemented, the U.S. is quietly moving toward this model.

According to the economist at Tufts, recent tax cuts have reduced the percentage that richer Americans pay out of their incomes, while citizens in the middle class are paying more and more in local, state and federal taxes.

The consequence, he says, is that the greater tax burden is shifted to the middle class - while top earners receive tax cuts Roach argues are unnecessary.

"Roach, a liberal, argues that the top one percent [of American earners] really don't need tax cuts because they have been doing extremely well in recent years," reported the Monitor.

The Tufts economic researcher says that if U.S. didn't cut taxes for those in the highest bracket, money could be used for additional public services -- or rebated to families with smaller incomes.

"Suppose tax cuts for the top one percent were eliminated and the additional revenues rebated equally to the other 99 percent of taxpayers. Under the current law, each household would get an extra $613," reported the Monitor.

As Roach noted to the Monitor, "These checks could be provided every year, varying slightly with the status of the economy."

The Monitor added, "Roach has another calculation: If the tax cuts for the top one percent were eliminated and those additional revenues were distributed to the bottom 20 percent of households - those with an average income of $9,400 -- these low-income families would receive a check of $3,032 in 2010."

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