Recently, the front end of my SUV and a wild turkey in dire need of an air traffic controller met head on at roughly 50 miles per hour, sending feathers flying and scattering pieces of my bumper across the road. For some strange reason, the incident brought to mind, of all things, the 2008 presidential race.
Why? In my opinion, the candidates' platforms on many issues appear eerily similar in substance to the bumper on my SUV -- easily cracked and, ultimately, expensive -- no matter which side of the aisle you sit on.
Take taxes, for example. For the Democrats, John Edwards has proposed bypassing tax preparers in favor of having the Internal Revenue Service calculate tax bills for roughly 50 million Americans and mailing said taxpayers the results. Essentially, Edwards' plan would supplant tax preparers with more government bureaucrats. Picture your worst experiences with the DMV and you can probably envision a preview of this.
Barack Obama's plan proposes a tax cut of between $80 billion and $85 billion, coupled with increases in the capital gains tax. His fix also includes a "Making Work Pay" tax credit of up to $500 per person and $1,000 per family for 150 million workers and their families. The tax credit would completely eliminate income taxes for 10 million workers.
Hillary Clinton's tax position basically entails labeling the Alternative Minimum Tax "terrible."
Across the aisle, Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee have recommended flat taxes and the FairTax, respectively.
Under Thompson -- who, considering his poll numbers, we may not have to kick around much longer -- the simplified flat tax would, in essence, provide two tax rates: 10 percent for joint filers with incomes of up to $100,000 ($50,000 for singles) and 25 percent for incomes above that amount. Meanwhile, capital gains and dividends would be taxed at a 15 percent rate.
Huckabee, meanwhile, would love to be the president who padlocks the IRS and implements a 23 percent FairTax. However, critics of a FairTax have calculated that the actual percentage is a bit closer to 30 percent, and would more than likely encourage folks to do a lot of business off the books. The FairTax also eliminates the payroll tax, which funds Medicare and Social Security. Let's also remember that, ultimately, there's going to be an agency in some form charged with collecting revenue.
Sen. John McCain would permanently repeal the AMT and make the Bush tax cuts and the R&D tax credit permanent. His plan would also make it harder to raise taxes by requiring a three-fifths majority vote in Congress to pass a tax increase, as well as banning Internet and cell phone taxes.
Tax policy will inarguably be a critical issue for the next resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. For example, some think tanks have projected a tax increase of roughly $400 billion alone if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire. From what we have heard from the candidates on the subject, it may only get worse from there.
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