CRANKERY THAT REFUSES TO DIE….Bruce Bartlett shreds the idea of a national sales tax in the Wall Street Journal here. New things I learned: the idea orginally came from the Church of Scientology (“The Scientologists’ idea was that since almost all states have sales taxes, replacing federal taxes with the same sort of tax would allow them to collect the federal government’s revenue and thereby get rid of their hated enemy, the IRS”) and public support for the idea is wobbly to say the least (“public opinion polls have long shown that support for flat-rate tax reforms is extremely sensitive to the proposed rate, with support dropping off sharply at a rate higher than 23%”).

The upshot of this is that sales tax advocates universally claim that their plan can eliminate all federal taxes at a rate of — surprise! — 23%. The real number, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, is north of 60%. But public opinion polls say it has to be 23%, so 23% it is.

This, of course, is the Mayberry Machiavelli theory of the modern Republican Party: policy analysis doesn’t matter. Only politics matters. If the peepul support a rate of 23%, then who cares what the eggheads say? We’re looking for votes here, not tax policy that actually works.

Of course, what’s really amazing is that Bruce can write a thousand words on this subject and maintain a calm and even demeanor throughout. After all, among serious tax analysts a national sales tax ranks right up there with eliminating the Fed and putting the United States back on the gold standard. It’s crankery. And yet it keeps rearing its ugly head, like a vampire that just won’t die. Anybody got a silver bullet handy?

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