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FairTaxers: VAT debate helps our cause

"When liberals advocate a value-added tax (VAT)," wrote George Will this weekend, "conservatives should respond." Liberals aren't really advocating the tax right now -- the closest we've come is a trial balloon from Paul Volcker. But conservatives are responding.

I encountered plenty of angst about the VAT from tea party activists last week and a little bit from pro-Second Amendment protesters yesterday. And while it's obvious that conservatives would hate this idea, I wondered about the effect it might have on the resilient, if not exactly moving-forward, FairTax movement -- the push to replace the income tax with a national sales tax (with a rebate going to people making less money). Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), who has introduced FairTax legislation in the past few Congresses and written two books about it, told me that a VAT debate would be a massive boon for the movement.

"It's going to bring the FairTax into better focus," said Linder, who said he was writing a book with radio host Neal Boortz about the difference between a FairTax and VAT. Rather than confusing voters with talk of multiple, scary, national sales taxes, Linder thinks the debate could finally cool off Democrats who imply that the FairTax would hit Americans unfairly.

"Two best-selling books have been written about it," said Linder. "If they want to say that, they're either lying or ignorant. They tried that on Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) [in the 2008 runoff] -- Chuck Schumer ran ads on that very subject. It backfired on them and they got off of the topic."

Linder has no doubt that VAT will be discussed this year -- he expects it to come out of the deficit reduction committee, which he calls "a huge set-up." In the meantime, he wants policymakers to rethink how they talk about a possible new tax.

"Ben Bernanke has been looking into this," said Linder. "He has no business getting into politics, as he told me personally when I asked him about the FairTax."

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By David Weigel  |  April 20, 2010; 12:05 PM ET
 | Tags: FairTax, FairTax: The Truth: Answering the Critics, Income tax, John Linder, Neal Boortz, Sales tax, United States, Value added tax  
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