Specter Misleads On Flat Tax
TO THE EDITORS
Although Joshua Kaufman has clearly been sold on the "simplicity" of Senator Arlen Specter's postcard plan for income tax in America, his column ("Politics, Not Props," Sept. 25, 1995) reflects his failure to see through the gloss of Specter's Flat Tax Plan brochure (yes, it was glossy, too, just like all the others) and analyze Specter's spiffy graph and crafty doublespeak.
Although the bar graph convincingly shows the one admirable part of the flat tax plan--the fact that fixed personal and family deductions of $16,500 for married couples effectively eliminate income tax for those with family incomes of around $30,000 or under--one only need look to the right end of the graph to see why the flat tax is one of the most regressive measures proposed in recent memory. Families with income levels of $1 million and more would be paying only around 61 percent of what they paid before the measure, which means that the huge loss in government income-tax intake would go almost entirely into the pockets of the richest families in America. But it is clearly the middle-to low-income families that will suffer from the inevitable resulting cuts in social programs.
Specter's graph is cunningly misleading for the reasons we learned in elementary school: The same size bars represent grossly different amounts of money. The bar representing any five percent granted by the government to the $25,000 income bracket represents $1,250; the same size bar on the other end of the graph--that 5 percent granted to the $1 million income bracket--represents a whopping $50,000.
Kaufman would do well to consider the plain fact that under Specter's tax, millionaires would save $100,000 a year in income tax, while comparable families with incomes of $60,000 would only save $600. Take that for simplicity. And if Mr. Kaufman could live with himself after voting for a president who would institute such a horrifyingly regressive system, then I question whether he has any concern what-soever for anyone less fortunate than himself. --Robin S. Goldstein '98