‘Tis disappointing. This habit we have. Of picking apart the details of what candidates promise us during their campaigns. 

First, why do we believe them at all? Does any politician solemnly pursue exactly what he promised? I am not being cynical here. We all know the pursuit never happens. We know circumstances change. We know the reality of wielding power is different than the fantasy of campaigning. For example, President Obama promised to close down Gitmo. When reality smacked him he backed down. He promised the tides would fall. He is still working on that. The reality is that the odds are against him.

Here is another reason to take these promises and plans with a few grains of salt. Or maybe another glass of wine. These guys will not have the power they pretend they will have.

“When I am President, I promise you that I will ___________.”  Fill in the blank. They fill in the blanks with promises that require power they will not have. Remember, they share power with all those birds in Congress.

Lately, folks have gone over Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan with microscopes. They tell us this part won’t raise quite enough money as planned. And that the poor will feel a burden here or there.

Knock it off! No president can dictate what a tax bill will be. No president can say this is exactly how we will reform the tax code and expect to see his ideas pass Congress unscathed. Even if he has huge majorities in both houses. Knowing that, we ought to stop treating his proposal as if it would ever be a done deal.

A smarter thing to do would be to consider other things his proposal reveals. It reveals he understands we have a major problem with our tax code. It is clogged with thousands of pages of arcane garbage. Its mission is no longer simply to collect taxes. Its mission now is to favor this group and punish that group. It is to second-guess what behavior should be rewarded. And what should be discouraged. Its mission is to reward big donors. To re-shape society.

Cain recognizes this. That reveals that he thinks differently than most politicians.

Our stupid tax system causes millionaires to spend thousands to avoid taxes. It causes businesses to pour money into strategies to minimize taxes. (You would too if you were faced with the mountain of pages of the tax code.) It forces millions of Americans to hire tax-preparers to deal with the complexities. It is a dog’s breakfast.

Cain, for one, recognizes this. He sees that if we truly cleaned up and simplified the tax code, prices of goods and services would drop. He sees that tax simplification would work its way through the economy and lower prices everywhere. If the miracle of truly simple taxes, with zero deductions, ever materialized, the lobbying industry would shrink. They would have so little to lobby for or against.

I am not suggesting Herman Cain would be a good president on the strength of this. But it is refreshing to see a candidate suggest something different than the tired old nips and tucks to our monstrous tax code. Or the same old remedies for our Ponzi-type Social Security system.

We have been fed warmed-over gruel by our politicians for years. Few have shown they have any taste for genuine reform. And some of our attitudes and institutions cry out for reform. I give Herman Cain a pat on the back for hearing the cry. And for taking the courageous first step in suggesting major reforms that would shake up Washington more than any earthquake.

Persuading Congress to move toward such a basic reform would be a big job. If the Tea Party held much sway over many members, it would help the effort.

And if such a major reform ever came over our tax system it would transfer mountains of power and influence away from Washington. The country would be the better for that.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.                  

For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows and new TV shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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