Over the years, I’ve enjoyed watching former senator Fred Thompson in front of the camera in his various movie and TV roles – particularly as Arthur Branch, the drawling, avuncular, but politically motivated, district attorney in the hit series Law & Order.

If I date myself, I can even remember him as one of the visible lawyers at the Watergate hearings in 1973.

But his 2008 candidacy for the White House, to me at least, seems like an afterthought. He got off to a relatively late start in the race after sidestepping eight months of speculation as to whether he would run in the first place and, at this point, hasn’t distinguished himself from the rest of the GOP candidates with any defining stance on front-burner issues.

I mean you can hammer Rudy Giuliani on New York City and immigration for just so long before you probably have to go on to something else.

In this space, I’ve addressed — or more accurately — criticized the tax reform and health-care plans of several of the 2008 presidential candidates.

Last week, Thompson issued a tax plan that would give taxpayers the option of choosing a simplified flat tax.

A flat tax?

It seems to me we’ve seen this movie before.

Thompson’s tax plan doesn’t veer into the land of John Edwards absurdity where the former North Carolina senator and trial lawyer proposed that the Internal Revenue Service basically calculate your taxes, but nevertheless, his is emblematic of his campaign.

Under his plan, 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.
From there, the standard deduction would double to $25,000 for joint filers and $12,500 for singles. Meanwhile, capital gains and dividends would be taxed at a 15 percent rate. There would be no other tax credits or deductions.

Again, only the numbers are different.

"My plan allows Americans to have greater control of their own money," Thompson said in a statement.
Didn’t our current president utter the same sentence almost verbatim when referring to his sweeping reform for Social Security?

Ownership doesn’t seem to carry as much of a cachet as you would think.

And to no one’s surprise, Thompson also wants to permanently extend the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 and repeal both the estate tax and alternative minimum tax.

To be fair, his proposal did include extending the ability
of small businesses to write off up to $125,000 in equipment purchases each year and to speed up depreciation schedules.

But like everything else that has been proposed thus far with regard to tax reform, it offers little that hasn’t been kicked around before — and “kicked” is probably an accurate verb.

However the 2008 election pans out, one thing appears certain, we’re sure to have tax reform to kick around for at least a while longer.


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