For once I agree with Neal Boortz

by Brian Clarey

There are some things that I have to see for myself.

In this case I’m talking about Neal Boortz, the boorish radio talk show host who was in town last week to sign copies of his book, The FairTax Book, at Barnes & Noble.

I kind of like Boortz, whose radio show airs every weekday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. on 101.1 FM WZTK. And the fact that I kind of like him is something that disturbs me because I used to kind of dislike him. And before that I openly despised him.

I still think he’s an ass, but he’s the kind of ass who’s right often enough that it would be unwise not to listen to the things that come out of his big, loud mouth.

Things like the Fair Tax.

I’m down with the Fair Tax. Way down. Have been since Frank Zappa brought it up when he was considering running for president on the Libertarian ticket back in those heady days of the mid-to-late ’80s, before Zappa succumbed to cancer.

Boortz considers himself a Libertarian as well, though I am unsure of his opinion of the late composer of ‘“My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama.’” I do know how Boortz feels about income tax because each day on the radio he relentlessly rails against it while shilling for his book in the same breath.

But I can dig it ‘— I myself have been guilty of shameless and gratuitous self-promotion in the past and it’s a safe bet that I’ll do it again. And also I like the plan.

It’s pretty simple: a 22 percent tax on everything you buy ‘— a tube of toothpaste, a pound of Red Hots, a two-bedroom condo, a sleeve of chewing tobacco, a jet-ski’… you get the picture. Everything you spend takes that 22 percent hit.

Sounds pretty nasty on the surface.

But hold the phone, Stallone. There will be some return on this investment.

For one, you won’t have any money taken from your paycheck and you won’t have to file taxes every year. Ever again.

The plan mandates the dissolution of the IRS. Yeah, I know that the good people who make sure you cough up your fair share are fine Americans who are just doing their jobs, but I’ve got to tell you: I hate those mothers. And before you start to bemoan the huge loss of jobs, think about this: in 2003 it cost $10.4 billion to run the IRS, paid for by you and me with money taken out of our checks. That’s a pretty nice slice taken off the federal budget. And don’t cry for their jobs, too, because there will still be plenty of numbers for these math geeks to crunch.

That’s because there’s one, and only one wrinkle to the Fair Tax, something Boortz calls ‘“prebates.’” It’s a measure to ensure that the poor don’t get screwed in the form of a government check mailed to everyone, rich and poor alike, to compensate for the 22 percent extra that they’ll be paying for necessities in an amount based on the size of their households and the bare minimum it would take to feed, clothe and shelter them and get them around town.

Now, I know that Boortz holds no special love for the poor. But we’ve been poor, my wife and I, and we surely would have been dancing in our crappy little apartment over the $429.33 check every month that Boortz says, as a three-person household, we would have qualified for at the time as a three-person household. And the dollar amount for that check would be no more and no less than any three-person household would get under the plan, no matter if you drive an SUV or a moped, if you buy your bread from an artisan bakery or from the day-old rack at the grocery store, if your clothes have designer labels or sweat stains from previous owners.

And Boortz holds no special love for the rich, either. While it might sound easier on the surface to simply exempt life’s necessities from the consumption-based tax, Boortz writes: ‘“Would it be fair to allow a multimillionaire to spend $20,000 on food for a large wedding reception at his estate and not pay any sales tax on that purchase?’” He also points out that any exemptions to this rule would provide a slippery slope as special interests lobby to attain that ‘exempt’ status.

There are some other aspects of the plan that turn me on as well. There will be no way to avoid paying this tax, which will cut down on offshore bank accounts, bogus charitable donations, money laundering schemes and various other ways that people try to cheat The Man. Even people who have filed for bankruptcy, even drug dealers and other black marketers, even illegal aliens will kick in their fair share every time they buy a pack of smokes or a chili cheese dog. There will be absolutely no way around it.

But perhaps his most compelling argument is this: the Fair Tax was conceived from scratch, just like those Christmas cookies your grandma makes. The tax code today is a hodgepodge, slapped-together monstrosity that came to be one small item at a time over the course of years and years. The Fair Tax wipes the slate clean and proposes to impose order and regimentation on the way our government takes our money.

I’m all over it.

So I’m at the book signing with the grannies and the nut jobs and the mad-as-hell-and-not-gonna-take-it-anymore types, hundreds of them, because I want to look at this man with my own eyes, this mad genius who probably wouldn’t invite me to a barbecue at his home even if I had a trunk full of ribs and PBRs. I listen to him speak briefly to the crowd and watch him banter with the people as he scrawls his name in the book. He’s exactly like I pictured: a real smug bastard. My book is approximately the 450th one he signs, and he doesn’t say a word or even look at my face as he does it.

Such an ass.

And yet we are strange bedfellows in our quest for taxation that is voluntary, fair and smart.

The Fair Tax Act of 2005 is HR 25 in the House of Representatives and S25 in the Senate. Your senators are Richard Burr (PO Box 5928; Winston-Salem, NC 27113; 202.224.3154) and Elizabeth Dole (712 South Fulton St.; Salisbury, NC 28144; 202.224.6342). Your representatives in Congress are Howard Coble (2102 N. Elm St. Suite B; Greensboro, NC 27408; 336.333.5005), Mel Watt (301 S. Greene St. ste. 210; Greensboro, NC 27402; 336.275.9950) and Brad Miller (400 W. Market St, Suite 104; Greensboro, NC 27401; 336.574.2909). If you like this idea, let these people know. And what the hell ‘— buy Boortz’s book.