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MSNBC Hosts A 'Fair And Balanced' Debate On The GOP's Flat Tax Plan

Where Steve Kornacki treats his viewers to "both sides" of the flat tax "debate."
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Anyone else out there think that Steve Kornacki absolutely ruined Chris Hayes' weekend show when he took over? He's turned it into just another version of Hardball or Meet the Press, countless segments on polling and the presidential horse race, lying that goes unchecked, and of course segments like this one from his show this Sunday where you have a "fair and balanced" debate between someone who is lying, and someone who is not.

As The Washington Post reported last week, it seems Rand Paul is the latest member of the 2016 GOP presidential clown car to catch the flat tax fever, and apparently The Heritage Foundation's Steve Moore is an "unofficial adviser" (whatever that means) to Rand Paul and helping him write his tax policy, so I assume that's all the excuse they needed to bring him on this weekend.

They knew what they were going to get from him, which is of course him arguing about how terribly complicated our tax code is, lying and pretending that a flat tax is popular, and more trickle down economics clap trap and pretending the American public is not already keenly aware of what the economic policies of Ronald Reagan really meant for the country.

Thankfully the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' Jared Bernstein was there to push back at Moore's assertions, because you weren't going to see Kornacki do it.

BERNSTEIN: What you're going to end up with is something that sounds a lot more fair than it really is and interestingly, people get that now. When people say they want a fair and an equitable code, they don't mean that everybody should pay the same amount in dollar terms. They don't mean everyone should pay the same amount in percentage terms.

They mean they want a progressive system where the rates are graduated. The rates go up as income goes up. Now, if you implement the flat tax, and this has been simulated many, many times over, you're going to actually increase the tax liability of people in the middle of the scale and you're going to significantly lower the tax liability of the people at the top.


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This would exacerbate after tax inequality. So it goes exactly the opposite direction of what you want a tax code to do and interestingly and I think importantly, people recognize that.

Bernstein has been writing about this issue for a very long time now. Here's more from a post of his from back in 2012, which for the most part is still applicable today: What’s Fair? Five (or Six) Principles of Tax Fairness:

This word “fairness” keeps coming up around tax day, particularly in discussions around the Buffett rule.

Many have questioned what I and others mean by “fair.” I’ve got five answers. A fair tax system should be:

1) Progressive: those with more income pay a larger share of it in taxes;

2) One that doesn’t exacerbate inequality by giving preferential treatment to the wealthy (e.g., by favoring capital over labor income);

3) One that doesn’t disproportionately benefit those who are already doing the best at the expense of the rest;

4) One that raises enough revenue from those with lots of resources to provide a leg up for those at a disadvantage;

5) One that does not rearrange the pretax income distribution, as in a confiscatory, highly redistributive system;

Conservatives invariably counter that it’s not fair for 47% of households to pay zero federal income tax (most recent data from 2009).

I even got a pretty moving note from a guy who said he didn’t think it was fair that just because his income was so low, he didn’t get to pay federal taxes. He wanted to contribute! (The usual R talking point here is “well, why don’t you write a check to the Treasury?!” which is just silly. Whether it’s this big-hearted low-income citizen or Buffett himself, their point is clearly systemic, and while their actions alone might make them feel better, they won’t cure the perceived problem they’re identifying.)

Liberals counter with two points. First, as the figure below shows, almost everybody pays taxes, and in fact, when it comes to payroll taxes, the middle class pays a higher effective rate than the wealthy (because those taxes cap out at around $110K). Middle and low-income households pay an effective rate of about 9% on payroll taxes; the top 1% pays 2%; middle-income families pay 17% of the total payroll tax bill; the top 1% pays 4%. And state tax rates tend to be pretty flat.

Lots more there so go read the rest if you want. He made a lot of the same points in the clip above and they didn't even get into the fact of how regressive other taxes than just federal income taxes are for the middle class and those just scraping by.

Moore knows full well the flat tax would lower taxes on the upper 1 percent, which is who he and his fellow Republicans are looking out for, no matter how much he wants to shake his head while Bernstein talks. He's one of the most dishonest pundits out there and shame on MSNBC for continuing to lend him credibility by having him on the air.

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