Two-time presidential candidate Steve Forbes is relaunching Americans for Hope, Growth and Opportunity in an attempt to build public support for a flat tax and market-based health care solutions and influence the policies of the next president.
Forbes, who serves as the publisher of Forbes magazine, ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 and 2000. His call for a flat tax seemed like a novelty to many back then, but Forbes says the idea keeps gaining traction and could play a major role in the 2016 campaign.
“A lot of us think the time is ripe to make a new push for the flat tax, not to mention getting patients in control of health care again and sound money. We take heart from what Ronald Reagan observed years ago, when Reagan said, ‘You don’t change minds on Capitol Hill through sweet reason. You do it through the heat of public opinion. By educating and turning up the heat, we can get some major reforms after the 2016 elections,” said Forbes.
Forbes is encouraged that Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, advocated for the flat tax in launching his presidential campaign. He says Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., are also very favorable to the idea.
What is the flat tax? Forbes says it’s simple.
“We throw out the corrupt tax code. The nine million words, with all the attendant rules, regulations and the code itself is beyond redemption. We’d have a single rate, generous exemptions for adults and children and that’s it,” said Forbes.
One of the most common criticisms of implementing a flat income tax rate for all Americans is that it would disproportionately burden the poor. Forbes says that’s not true.
“So a family of four, for example, would pay no federal income tax on their first $52,000 of wages and then above that you’d pay a flat 17 percent rate. You’d have no tax on savings, no death taxes,” said Forbes.
He says simplicity would be the hallmark of the flat tax on the business world as well.
“On the corporate side, we cut the rate from 35 percent down to 17 percent and allow instant expensing of capital expenditures. Senator Cruz pointed out you could literally do your tax return on a postcard or a single sheet of paper or a few keystrokes on a computer,” said Forbes.
If all the current tax rates would be slashed, would we see a dramatic decrease in the revenues coming into Washington? Forbes says it would be exactly the opposite.
“Over a five-year or ten-year period, it’ll bring in much more revenue. Growth begets a lot of revenue and then the question and debate will be how do we use that revenue. Democrats will want to spend it. Others of us will want to reduce taxes further. But it’ll be a nice problem to have and also provide the resources to rebuild our tattered military that this president is running into the ground,” said Forbes.
And Forbes says the flat tax would trigger one other change that would cause nationwide rejoicing.
“All the IRS agents and the lobbyists and special interests all can get job retraining,” he mused.
Forbes admits those same lobbyists and special interests will fight feverishly to protect their interests in the current tax code. He says lawmakers are also a part of the problem and both parties deserve blame.
“Washington is resistant on both sides, more the Democrats then Republicans, but complexity in the tax code is a source of power. They’re not going to give it up voluntarily but I think the mood of the country and a mood among more and more members of Congress are coming to realize that this thing has got to go,” said Forbes.
On the health care front, Forbes advocates scrapping both the individual and employer mandates in Obamacare, allowing patients to shop for health insurance across state lines and giving individuals and businesses the same treatment under the tax code.
He also wants to revolutionize Medicaid by setting up a voucher system for the states that would then be extended to the people.
“You get a voucher for a certain amount and you go out and determine what kind of insurance policy you want. What you don’t use in the voucher, you put in a Health Savings Account. Return it to the people so the people are the real customers, not third parties and government bureaucrats,” said Forbes.
Forbes is bullish on Republicans winning the White House in 2016. He has no plans to endorse a candidate anytime soon but says he is especially impressed with the depth of the likely presidential field.
“Like millions of others, I’m looking over the field. I think there’s a very strong bench for Republicans. Ted Cruz is formidable on his feet in a debate. I think the governors are going to add a lot to the race as they get in. I think we’re going to have a good outcome in 2016,” said Forbes.
He is also not concerned about a large GOP field leaving the eventual nominee battered and bruised heading into the general election.
“There are those say, ‘Well, aren’t you going to kill each other?’ No, what we’re going to get out of this, and this is where I think the flat tax is going to play a key role, is that the candidate who emerges is going to have a strong, pr-growth, exciting, Reaganesque agenda to get America moving again,” said Forbes.
After two White House bids of his own, Forbes also has some personal advice for the GOP hopefuls.
“Just be prepared for what I call the hazing process. If you start to get traction, the media is going to descend upon you for a period of time. Nothing you do will be right. Just realize this is part of the testing process and you’re talking to the people and not to the media. Stick to your message,” said Forbes.