Posted by Bob Lord
I'm really dating myself here, but it occurred to me today that a John Anderson candidacy today could attract a lot of support. OK, if you reached political awareness after 1980, Anderson was the independent in the 1980 race. He actually did pretty well, about 7% of the vote if memory serves me right.
I voted for Anderson. I even wrote a letter to the editor that was featured in the now defunct Washington Star. He had this proposal he called the 50/50 tax, which I thought was fantastic tax policy at the time. Under Anderson's proposal, we would increase the federal gas tax by 50 cents per gallon and decrease the social security tax by 50 percent. The increase in the gas tax would discourage gasoline consumption and move us away from gas guzzlers (remember that the 1979 oil shock had just occurred and the Iranian hostage crisis was ongoing, so weaning ourselves off the oil was high prioirty). But Anderson recognized that the gas tax would be regressive, so he proposed a reduction in another regressive tax, the social security tax, in order not to hammer the poor and middle class.
We need that kind of thinking now. Indeed, with a few minor tweaks, Anderson's 50/50 tax would be good policy today. The 50 cent gasoline tax increase would need to be increased. The 50 percent social security tax reduction should be restructured as a reduction in the employee's share of the social security tax at the lowest levels of income, combined with an increase in contribution wage base sufficient to offset the lost social security tax revenue. That would allow the gasoline tax increase to be used to build desparately needed roads, rather than to replace a shortfall in the social security tax.
Of course, there are problems with proposals like Anderson's. They violate Grover Norquist's edict. They require a modicum of thought to understand. They're logical. And, worst of all, they can't be explained in a 30 second spot, but they sure can be attacked in one.