Wyden's Flat Tax.
Looking through my posts, they're as much about budgets as taxes, so here's something directly on topic: Senator Ron Wyden's "flat" tax. He has offered it as a fix to two major problems in the US tax code: getting rid of the insane complexity (it is 1.4 million words long, would stand 6 feet tall if bound in standard paper, and takes the average citizen 31 hours to fill out), and getting rid of all the little perks to the rich.
I'm not sure why he called it a flat tax, unless he's adopting Bush's trojan-horse nomenclature ("healthy forests," "clean skies")--it's not flat, and flat taxes are always offered, as Steve Forbes', as a sop to the rich. Wyden's proposal is designed for simplicity:
- On a one-page 1040, filers would be taxed at one of three (nonflat) rates: 15%, 25%, and 35%.
- The corporate income tax would be fixed at 35%
- Almost all loopholes would be eliminated (including the AMT), particularly in the corporate code
So while Wyden's tax system doesn't look particularly progressive superficially (as recently as 1964, the top income bracket was 94%), it actually makes huge gains. It also has great window-appeal; almost everyone recognizes that the tax code needs to be simplified, so this is a huge selling point. By leaving the top marginal rate low, he makes it difficult for the rich to argue publicly that they're getting shafted (though of course privately they know just how much they've been shafting the US). It would actually reduce the burden on the middle-class an poor while adding money to the budget.
He's not offering a return to midcentury progressive tax politics, but it's a huge step in the right direction, and may actually have political legs.