The Tax Reform Commission is in Good Hands


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As long as former Senator Connie Mack is in charge. In yesterday's New York Times magazine, Deborah Solomon interviews him for her weekly "Questions for..." feature-- which is rapidly becoming the first thing I turn to in the Sunday paper each week.
Here's Mack (with an italicized interjection by Solomon) on why the "death tax" should be repealed permanently:

Mack: Well, let's say, if you are in the farming business and you have the desire to pass this farm on to your children. The problem is that when your parents die, you have to come up with cash to pay the estate tax. One thing you don't have is cash. You've got plenty of land. So I just don't believe it's a fair tax.
Solomon: That strikes me as a red herring. The issue is not really small farms, but zillion-dollar estates made up of stocks and bonds.
Mack: I don't know what the percentage breakdown is. I still go back to the same notion that these individuals who have accumulated these resources have paid taxes on them many times in their life, and then to say, when you die, now you pay more taxes on it? There is a limit.

How can anyone sit on a handpicked, highly visible federal tax reform commission and still buy the "family farm" attack on the estate tax-- even as he blandly admits that he doesn't know if farm taxation ever happens? And how disturbing is it that he can retreat (so quickly, too!) to the equally wrong "double taxation" argument?

Here's another exchange, on why mounting federal deficits and debt shouldn't trouble us:
Solomon: Well, the U.S. government has to get money from somewhere. As a two-term former Republican senator from Florida, where do you suggest we get money from?
Mack: What money?
Solomon: The money to run this country.
Mack: We'll borrow it.
Solomon: I never understand where all this money comes from. When the president says we need another $200 billion for Katrina repairs, does he just go and borrow it from the Saudis?
Mack: In a sense, we do. Maybe the Chinese.
Solomon: Is that fair to our children? If we keep borrowing at this level, won't the Arabs or the Chinese eventually own this country?
Mack: I am not worried about that. We are a huge country producing enormous assets day in and day out. We have great strength, and we have always adjusted to difficulties that faced us, and we will continue to do so.

We already knew that Bush's stated goal of a "revenue neutral" tax reform package was a farce, since by "revenue neutral" he actually means "revenue neutral after we enact another bunch of tax cuts." And now we know that the guy in charge of making recommendations that meet Bush's goals doesn't give a rat's ass about revenue neutrality-- however you define it. Maybe Mack was hesitant (or repentant) in the actual interview in a way that doesn't come across in print, but there's something pretty chilling about the ease with which he responds, "we'll borrow it."

Usually Solomon's interview go so well because of the sharp questions she asks. But with this guy, remarkably little prodding is necessary to get behind the mask. Disturbing stuff.
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