Rick Perry Calls for a Flat Tax

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The Texas governor will release a full economic plan next week, but in the meantime he wants to replace America's federal income rates

Rick Perry - AP Photo:Isaac Brekken - banner.jpg

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is calling for replacing the federal income tax with a flat tax, a conservative idea long condemned by liberals as a regressive burden on lower- and middle-income taxpayers.

The Republican presidential hopeful previewed his economic plan for the country at the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, but offered few details. He said he would unveil a proposal next week calling for creation of a flat tax, which would replace the present system of graduated tax rates based on income with a single rate for all taxpayers, regardless of income.

Perry told an audience of about 150 Republicans that his plan would also include a ban on congressional earmarks, passage of a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, spending cuts, and entitlement reform. He plans to unveil details in a speech on Tuesday in South Carolina.

"A change election requires a new direction, and not more of the same," Perry said. "And I come by my conservatism very authentically, not by convenience. I offer the American people a new direction. My economic plan is rooted in what has worked in my home state." He said he would scrap "the current 3 million words of the American tax code" and replace it with "something simple: a flat tax."

"I want to make the tax code so simple that even [Treasury Secretary] Timothy Geithner can file his taxes on time," Perry said.

One of Perry's main rivals for the Republican nomination, pizza executive Herman Cain, has also called for a flat income tax, which he has said would be a rate of 9 percent. Perry did not stipulate a rate in his speech on Wednesday.

Perry said he will also work to pass a balanced budget amendment, another long-standing conservative idea that has lacked sufficient support to pass in Congress. "I will barnstorm this country from day one, going to all 50 states if that's required, to generate the support for a balanced-budget amendment, that will demand [that] the necessary changes will be placed in our Constitution," he said.

Earmarks, the special provisions for certain districts and states tucked into appropriations bills, have been greatly reduced in recent years after they became the object of public scorn as wasteful spending. Perry said, "My plan is to end earmarks for good. It's time to bring some tough medicine to Washington."

Image credit: Isaac Brekken/AP

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Rebecca Kaplan is a staff writer (White House) for National Journal.

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