The Wall Street Journal’s Reflexive Opposition to the People 

“Crazy.” “Masochism.” “Kill” the proposal in committee. 

Goodness gracious, Wall Street Journal editorial board. Tell us how you really feel about House Republicans’ commitment to vote on a national sales tax! And more important, on dispatching the IRS to history’s proverbial ash heap. 

Journal editorialists once served as an intellectual vanguard for the Reagan Revolution and conservative thought. Now that posse can’t shake its reflexive shilling for a corporate donor class sold-out to out-of-touch, out-of-control woke capitalism. 

Meaning the editorial page is consistently, annoyingly on the wrong side of any issue involving the MAGA movement (especially on the questions of election integrity in 2020 and 2022 and the January 6, 2021 protests). 

On this question of a national sales tax, however, the Journal is wrong times three—three Ps, actually—in stunningly defending the stupidest of stupid government tricks: the current tax system. 

In the first place it is wrong on the politics. Voting on a sales tax “will give Democrats a potent campaign issue,” says the Journal as “in 2010, Democratic groups ran ads that blasted the sales tax but ignored the other tax cuts.” 

Dudes: it’s not 2010 anymore. 

Just 20 percent of voters trust government. Even fewer believe it represents their interests. This is a state of affairs surely exacerbated by an ever-lengthening string of debacles: the Afghanistan abdication, the COVID clown show and subsequent coverups, the catapulting costs of everything, energy insecurity, woke weirdness, baby formula supply shortages, air traffic turmoil, the uncertainty surrounding Ukraine, social media manipulation, and Joe Biden’s document deception. 

The bureau the citizenry credits least? The IRS. Dead last in agency trustworthiness per YouGov. It is alone in earning negative marks, the Partnership for Public Service says and its approval ratings are plummeting in Gallup temperature-takings

Moreover, America’s tax collectors are more vulnerable than ever. A whopping 84 percent of Republicans and more than 60 percent of independents would reverse the Biden Administration’s plan to send $80 billion to fund legions of new IRS agents to harass homeowners. 

Ditching the IRS is a surefire way to fire up the base. The GOP is (for once!) rightly striking while the iron’s hot. 

But the reform “won’t become law!” That’s exactly what everyone said about the proposals in the Green New Deal—but it has been becoming law, piecemeal. This underscores the reasons why a national sales tax has been promoted here and elsewhere. This is how the game of politics is played.

In the second place, the Journal is just wrong on the policy. The current tax system is stupid in a number of important ways: 

  •  It taxes income—the fruit of working and investing. 
  • It taxes payrolls—the virtuous and altruistic activity of hiring people. 
  • It taxes marriage—with the hitched half of the population paying three-quarters of income taxes.  
  • It taxes death—a levy that, per the Joint Committee on Taxation, reduces revenue to the government. 
  • It even taxes taxation! The all-in cost of complying with the mind-bogglingly complex code was once estimated at a staggering 14 percent of receipts—up to nearly $1 trillion annually. The majority of Americans in 2021 paid for tax preparation—that is they paid good money to submit a bill for an increasingly lousy service. Nearly 60 percent shelled out $50 or more. 

Like the airfares cited in “Sleepless in Seattle,” no one knows the price of government. Airfares change every day. Government’s price varies with each household, depending on income level and source, job, location, family size, generosity, investments, and so on and so forth. Even the IRS declines to advise taxpayers what they owe (that is, of course, until it’s audit time). 

The Journal hates the 23 percent “price tag” on the Fair Tax proposal. But that’s the point: transparency on government’s true cost. With a single, out-in-the-open “price,” voters could do true comparison shopping between party programs, exerting downward pressure on spending. 

On that score Journal scribes agonize that “new bureaucracies would have to keep track of the inevitable exceptions to the tax.” C’mon. One number—percentage of sales—calculated across most goods and services. Versus endless exemptions, exclusions, deductions, credits and rates for millions of households and businesses? What’s harder to “keep track of?” 

Plus the editorialists fret about adding sales taxes on top of inflation. Ha! Dumping corporate taxation would wipe out baked-in taxation and compliance costs, lowering prices. Corporations don’t pay taxes: I do. 

Above all things, however, the Journal is wrong about power. Democrats have done the heretofore unthinkable: released tax records of a private citizen and the only declared GOP presidential candidate. 

This serves to highlight two simple but important facts: first, the IRS knows too much about Americans’ private lives, levels of wealth, business practices, associations, affiliations and predilections. Second, the government can no longer be trusted with that information (if it ever could). 

When a faux president hovers before a menacing blood-red backdrop and ramrod-straight Marines, calling half of Americans threats to the republic, or reminds those daring to own AR-15s that he commands F-15s, why should the Americans trust the government with this information? 

The Journal’s puzzling predisposition for truly stupid capitulation, cost, complexity, confusion, contortion, and corruption is hard to understand until you consider the thing that they appear to fear the most: a shift back to control over property, preferences and privacy—not to mention self-preservation—from Washington elites to everyday Americans.

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About Bob Maistros

Bob Maistros has spent the last three decades putting words in the mouth of luminaries at the highest levels of the worlds of business and politics around the globe. The chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, a former Senate subcommittee counsel and a longtime public relations advisor for companies ranging from AOL to MTV to XM Satellite Radio – not to mention a father of six who took time out mid-career to venture abroad as a church worker – Bob now offers biting satire based on insights gathered at the front lines of headline-making corporate crises, political contests and the culture wars.

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