Aisle-Right politicians seem way too comfortable losing elections. Many are still writhing in confusion and frustration wondering how the majority of the electorate is blind to the negative impact of liberal economic policies and how they hurt many low-income wage earners, women and minorities.
Rather than offer up real policy choices, Republicans tend to throw out retreaded proscriptions that often seek to deliver a solution without having first defined the problem. Compounding this blunder is the failure to frame issues in a context with which voters and the media are accustomed.
Invariably, there is one subtext to every political issue and it holds the heart of every voter: inequality. With the 2014 midterms approaching, the progressive media narrative of inequality is strongly trending. Whether it’s health care, education, immigration status or any other issue, the trendline driving the agenda is inequality.
The focus may be different from issue to issue but voters in general are increasingly disgusted with inequality; that there is one set of rules for the powerful and elite and another for those of us who get up and work everyday. The key for conservatives is to find a policy issue on this inequality trendline that clicks with voters without abandoning the principles of economic conservatism or a commitment to future generations.
That issue for 2014 and beyond is tax reform. The truth about taxes that nobody wants to admit is that no matter where you go around the world, the fundamental tax structure exists on inequality. This is not necessarily a criticism but merely a fact. No developed, sovereign nation in the world has a tax system that does not ultimately have higher rates for some people and lower rates for others.
You can see this all the way back to the Stamp Act of 1765. For the American colonists, it was not just taxation without consent. It also included the subtext of inequality; that British soldiers in the colonies did not have to pay the same tax as the colonists. Basically it was inequality walking around everyday before their very eyes.
Tax inequality exists between the rich and the poor but it also exists between people within the same tax bracket. Almost all Americans can sense this inequality and many seek ways of correcting it. Ever spend any time around tradesmen or merchants who are happy to take payment “under the table”? There’s a large swath of people in the country who don’t pay income taxes because they operate in cash. It’s how they take personal action against inequality and it works for them.
If fiscal conservatives really want to win, they will laser-focus on the inequality that exists in the current federal tax system with particular attention to the lower-and-middle income spectrum. They can do this by replacing the current federal income tax code with a national retail consumption tax, otherwise known as the Fair Tax Act (HR 25 in the House of Representatives).
The Fair Tax Act single-handedly eliminates the punishing tax code on low-income Americans and is the only plan that completely eliminates taxes on the poor. It eliminates all payroll tax deductions including FICA, and allows workers to take home their full pay, with taxes paid only when they make retail purchases.
This is something that forward-thinking, fiscally-conservative politicians can jump on and effectively campaign on. Instead of going on the stump demanding tax reform – and weathering the inevitable ‘tax cuts for the rich’ complaints of their opponents – they can tell the single parent and the minimum wage earner how the Fair Tax ends the punishing effects of the tax code. The math is simple and easily digested by taxpayers, illustrating in real terms how the Fair Tax Act affects every family’s bottom line.
There are obviously more details associated with the Fair Tax Act but in the broadest sense, it effectively addresses the inequality trendline of the tax code. It’s an issue GOP incumbents and challengers can be ‘for’ rather than simply railing against the White House, Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi. All that remains to be seen is whether Republicans will make this part of their agenda.