A View from Below: Flat tax most equitable

Not only does Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrate Dr. King’s life and work, it reminds us that although much has been done to end discrimination, much more work remains. Sadly, discrimination still mars U.S. culture.
Here at Grinnell, we like to consider ourselves a diverse, accepting and undiscriminating group of young adults. Discrimination can take many forms, whether based off the color of one’s skin to the amount of money one makes. I think nearly all individuals (at Grinnell, at least) believe that any form of public discrimination against legally competent individuals is bad and should be illegal.

In addition, I believe the majority of Grinnellians support a progressive federal income tax system in which individuals who make more money pay a higher percent of their income to taxes. Currently in the United States, depending on income one pays between 0% and 35% of one’s income to the federal government.

In my view, such a distinction based on earnings accounts for a clear example of public discrimination of the kind I mentioned earlier.

I do not support such discrimination in any way or form and I hope my fellow classmates also hold this belief. To me, this practice is no different than forcing, say, African Americans pay a 35% federal income tax rate while having Asian Americans not pay any; discrimination is discrimination, no matter what the form.

In place of such income tax systems, the view from below is to enact a “flat tax” in which every individual, no matter if they make $5,000 or $5,000,000 pays the same percent of their income to federal income tax. A flat tax can easily be applied to an income tax system.

Many opposed to flat tax systems argue that under a flat tax system, the rate would have to be so high that lower and middle class individuals would not be able to pay. Although there is no accurate data to to predicate what the exact tax rate would need to be, one can get a general idea by looking at other governments’ tax systems.

Worldwide, over 40 countries use a flat tax system. These vary from Russia to Jamaica and the tax rates vary from 3% in Anguilla to 33.33% in Guyana. On a more local scale, nine states have adopted flat tax systems for their state taxation systems: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Utah. These states have made a bold statement that they will not allow public income discrimination within their borders.

Often when one first thinks about a flat tax one believes it as an economic issue; for me though, this is not the case. The ideology behind a progressive tax system is one I do not believe in. In contrast flat tax provides a sensible, fair, non-discriminatory way for the government to collect revenue.

For better or worse, I am a man of ideologies and principals. Public discrimination against legally competent individuals is a practice I do not support, and therefore I have no choice but to oppose progressive tax systems.

For more information about flat taxes and tax reform in the US, I encourage you to look into the work of the non-profit organization Americans for Tax Reform.

Until next time, remember there’s also a view from below.

-Max Mindock ’15