Dr. Ben Carson, now a Republican presidential candidate, has long proposed a “flat tax” for the country, citing the Bible’s tithing as his inspiration. As he reiterated Sunday morning on Fox News Sunday, he supports the idea of a “proportional tax,” one in which “you pay according to your ability.” A flat tax would require everybody in the country to pay the same percentage of their income as tax, regardless of how much or how little they make, and most variations include eliminating deductions and loopholes. Carson thinks it’s “condescending” to suggest it’s not fair that poor people can’t afford to pay their share because “poor people have pride, too” and “don’t want to be just taken care of.”
But on Sunday, host Chris Wallace confronted Carson with tax experts, who found that to raise the same amount of revenue the federal government currently takes in, the government would have to impose a 20 percent tax across the board. (The Tax Policy Center argues it would have to be at least 25 percent.) “Middle incomes would get a tax hike and wealthy families would get a tax cut,” Wallace explained. Carson countered that he simply didn’t “agree with that assessment.” He then admitted that according to the economists he’s consulted, if loopholes and deductions are eliminated, it would still have to be between 10 and 15 percent — but it wouldn’t be 20 percent.
Wallace followed up by asking about low-income families, who not only don’t pay taxes, but usually receive an earned income tax credit instead. “Now you’ll have them pay 10 to 15 percent of income they have — or 20 percent if my experts are right. A lot of independent studies say the people that make like bandits in this are the wealthy.”
Carson could only then offer a vague explanation about how his tax plan is part of “an overall complex program” that involves “reorienting the way we do things in government.” The candidate said he wants to run the government “more like a business” instead of “this great inefficient behemoth we have right now,” including generating revenue by “utilizing our energy resources.” Part of his plan also includes “revamping corporate taxes and bringing in money that’s overseas by giving a tax holiday,” claiming that would bring in “$2 trillion right there.”
Other 2016 Republican candidates have also proposed regressive tax plans this electoral season. Mike Huckabee, for example, wants a sales tax instead of an income tax. Rand Paul has proposed a 17 percent flat tax that eliminates all taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest. The Washington Post’s Matt O’Brien responded to Ted Cruz’s flat tax/eliminate the IRS plan by calling it “a colossal giveaway to the rich.” Scott Walker, who proposed eliminating Wisconsin’s state income tax, has said that getting rid of the federal income tax “sounds pretty tempting right now.”