Monday, September 16, 2013

To the FairTax Proponents

The idea of FairTax excites me.  I value simplicity and the FairTax seems simple.

Let me say again (because the rest of this post will probably make you think I don't support this legislation): I support the principles that FairTax seems to be built on.  The principles seem to be comprehensibility, simplicity, fairness and a lack of loopholes.

But you, legislators trying to pass this bill, do not currently have my support.  Mostly, because of problems with -- problems that have little to do with the content of the bill and everything to do with bad delivery and marketing.

1. Where are the Cons? leads me to conclude that the FairTax is practically perfect in every way.  But, from experience, I know that there's no way FairTax can be perfect.  There are downsides to this (and every other) legislation, and it is dishonest to pretend that there are not.

I would like to see a set of pros and cons, if for no other reason than to show that the legislators are actually thinking this all the way through.  Perhaps there should be more than one set of pros and cons.  It would be informative to see pros and cons for the wealthy, the poor, corporations, religious institutions, government agencies, brick and mortar stores, online stores, insurance companies, hospitals, etc...

If you can't acknowledge faults, then I can't accept that you've thought this all the way through and I will not support you.

2. The FAQ is not helpful

I tend to agree with this article's estimation of the FAQ as a format.  And after using the FAQ, I agree even more for two reasons:

  1. That I have to click every single question before the answer shows is ridiculous.  And I can't have more than one answer open at a time.  Just give me the info!  I can scroll past the information that isn't relevant.
  2. I read about how other governments (e.g. State of Florida) have implemented similar tax structures.  About an hour later, I wanted to show my wife and I couldn't find the same question again.  I found myself trying iterating through possible ways the question could be phrased.  If all the text was on the page, I would have just searched the page for "Florida."
Please take some time to reorganize the FAQ into a navigable document and stop hiding so much.  It feels like you're trying to hide stuff.

3. Link to the text

All of the text and videos on are nothing compared to the actual text of the legislation.  You can say all you want, however you want, but it's not that's going to be put into law, it's H.R. 25.  Please provide a link to the text of the bill.  Then, rather than telling my what you think the bill says, quote the bill directly.  A side benefit to quoting the actual text is that it might motivate the authors of the text to make it more intelligible to those who aren't politicians.

4. Lead with 30%

The most prominent number on is 23%.  And the FairTax is a sales tax, not an income tax.  So, in the FAQ when people see the question "What will be the rate of the sales tax be at the retail counter?" I will bet that 90% of them will react the same way I did.  "It's 23%, right?"


"30 percent?!  They lied!"

The text goes on to accurately explain how 23% refers to sales tax based on a tax-inclusive income so that we're comparing apples with blah blah blah.  The math is accurate.  I don't dispute that.  But the feeling of distrust I experienced was very real.  It is misleading to tout the FairTax as a 23% tax that's a sales tax, when it's actually a 30% sales tax.

The feeling you get when you've been led along with 23% only to find see, intentionally hidden in the FAQ is that you've been had and that the people authoring this bill are deceptive.

Instead of leading with 23% and trying to explain away 30%, lead with the more obvious 30% and explain how it's actually 23%.  If you can't lead with 30%, this bill won't pass.  Be more forthright.

5. Corporations are fictions?

Under the question "Will corporations get a windfall with the abolition of the corporate tax?" (which you would think is a yes or no question [until you read the answer]) it begins "Corporations are legal fictions..."

In this post I'm offering a critique of the delivery of the message (not the content of the bill).  I have my reservations about the exceptional status offered to corporations by this bill, but what I take issue with here is the silly notion of calling corporations fictions.

I can see what they're trying to say: that people bear the burdens of taxes on business.  But corporations are not fictions.  I work for a corporation.  It's no fiction.  The corporation buys real goods, feeds us real food sometimes, spends real money in the community, donates real money to campaigns.  "Fiction" is too strong a word.  Please rephrase the answer to this question (including perhaps a Yes or No at the beginning).

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