TAKING STOCK: Stop wasting time on 9-9-9 - U.S. Tax Code isn't going anywhere

Dear Mr. Berko:

Would you please comment on Herman Cain's "9-9-9" tax proposal? This seems to be the best idea of them all. Don't you agree? And if so, can you help us promote 9-9-9? We desperately need a new tax code, and our group is working hard with members of Congress to make this possible.

RS, Chicago

Dear RS:

In 1939, our tax code took up 505 pages. Today it exceeds 76,000 pages, and that number is growing at 3.2 percent a year (that's more than 2,200 pages) and exceeding the rate of inflation.

Most Americans agree that we need a simplified tax code - something, perhaps, like this: Gross income minus the costs to produce that income equals taxable income. Then all taxable income would be subject to a simple sliding-scale tax rate.

But that's wishful thinking. It won't happen, and there are 75,495 pages of proof. (That's pages in today's tax code minus the 505 in 1939.) A lobbyist and a congressman are involved every time a new page is added, cash changes hands and the bank account of the beneficiary for whom that new page is written becomes bigger.

I can't tell you that Cain's 9-9-9 recommendation is better than a flat tax, that a flat tax is better than a value-added tax or that Ron Paul's ideas are better than Spongebob Squarepants'. But I will tell you that the self-interest of the few will always prevail over the interest of the public good. It's been this way for thousands of years and will be this way for thousands of years in the future. And every economist and politician will tell you that's what makes the world go 'round.

Another important hurtle preventing the simplification of the tax code is that its complexity is aided and abetted by overwhelming numbers of lawyers, accountants, CPAs and peripheral businesses whose significant incomes derive from that complexity. A simple tax code, such as the one we had in 1939, would be disastrous.

Consider the tens of thousands of IRS agents who would be unemployed; the numerous tax courts that would become empty; the huge tax-shelter industry that would collapse; the slashed publishing industry revenues; the tens of thousands of CPAs and tax lawyers who would have to be retrained; and the hundreds of thousands of peripheral employees who would lose their jobs. Neither congress nor its 37,527 registered lobbyists (as of press time) would permit this to happen.

Most folks want to go to Heaven but don't want to die to get there. And most folks would accept a change in the tax code as long as it doesn't gore their ox.

You and your group are trying to change something that will not change, and the members of Congress who you think support your group know there won't be changes but to humor you and earn your vote.

I know about your group, and several other members have also asked for support. But you good folks and others who lead these well-intentioned groups are paid by membership dues ... dues that are tax-deductible. So I respectfully suggest that you guys stop wasting your time and find employment that produces a measureable benefit to the GDP. There are some things that will never change for the better, and our tax code is one of them.


Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775 or e-mail him at mjberko@yahoo.com. Visit Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

© 2011 Creators Syndicate Inc.

Published: Fri, Nov 18, 2011


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