Leader Blues

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

EDITORIAL >> Sen. Baker disappoints

Disappointments, disappointments. Now we read that our favorite Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, the joyful and sweet-tempered Gilbert Baker of Conway, has joined the little rearguard clique that wants to substitute a giant national sales tax for corporate and personal income taxes.

We have lost count of how many Republican candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives from northwest Arkansas have come out for the “Fair Tax,” the name that its authors dreamed up 20 years ago, but we should have guessed that Gil

Baker would eventually try to get ahead of the parade. He does that.

Still, it is disappointing. In spite of his right-wing pronouncements in this race, Baker was always a pragmatic lawmaker in his stints in the Arkansas House of Representatives and Senate. He was known even to vote for taxes for good causes. His transmogrification into a reactionary follows the pattern of his mentor, Mike Huckabee, including his embrace of the national sales tax. (See comment below.)

Substituting a broad sales tax for income taxes would shift the tax burden more radically from the rich to working people. Its adherents, like Huckabee, claim that its regressive effect would be offset by a government rebate to everyone to offset the taxes on what it costs to live in poverty. But the tax rate would need to be so huge — more than 30 percent by independent estimates — that it would lower the lifestyle of people of median incomes and less, and also accelerate the shift of wealth to the top one percent of Americans.

If Huckabee, Baker and the other politicians who have climbed on the sales tax bandwagon are serious and not merely grandstanding, they will climb on board with the AR One Tax. That is the nutty constitutional amendment that some ideologues who call themselves the Arkansas Progressive Group are trying to get on the Arkansas ballot this fall. The attorney general and secretary of state have approved the popular name and ballot title and have asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to certify that it would not mislead people about what they are voting on. We don’t think the Supreme Court will do that because the name and ballot title are not only bewildering and stupid, but also dishonest. But the amendment may get on the ballot and, who knows, the voters may approve it.

It purports to repeal all taxes levied by the state, although by deceit or oversight the authors leave many taxes untouched. The $5.5 billion of state revenues that support schools, highways, health care, prisons and all the other functions of government would be replaced by a sales tax on everything you buy, from groceries and cars to haircuts, doctor visits and the services of your gardener and your tax preparer.

Businesses wouldn’t pay any taxes, but all 2.9 million Arkansawyers would get a big check each month from the government to pay for the necessities of life. Just for an example, the Jim Bob Duggar family in Little Rock — the 21 of them —would get about $70,000 a year from the state. You would, of course, buy your new car and appliances in Memphis to save a fourth of the cost.

If that sounds like a plan, vote for our friend Gil Baker, or one of his Republican foes. They’re for it.