Allen West Uses Ben-Hur to Vaguely Defend Regressive Tax Plan

​If you were wondering, Congressman Allen West supports the flat tax. If you want to know why, though, it has, ah, something to do with Charlton Heston.

West posted a video of himself speaking on the House floor last week under the title, "Why the Flat Tax Works." It's a curious title, because he doesn't explain why anything works in the video -- he said that "we hear a lot of talk today about fairness and fair share and economic equality and shared sacrifice" and then went on to explain how it was so unfair that people who make a ton of money should pay a larger share of federal income taxes. I sympathize.  

He then goes into why he thinks the flat tax is a good idea. This is where Heston comes in.

"It kind of reminds me, my dear colleagues, of that movie Ben-Hur," West said. "The commander came down, and he said very simply, 'Row well and live, 41,' and, of course, we remember that beating 'bah, dun, dah dunnn dun.' Well, what happens on that Roman galley if only 25 percent is rowing? That's the situation that we have here in the United States of America."

It's not entirely clear what the actual situation is that he's referring to, but it seems "rowing" is a metaphor for "paying federal income taxes," and he wants everyone to be rowing, even if they've got skinny little arms that make it impossible to row because they don't have the disposable income of the 1 percent that West defends so loyally.

The faults of a flat tax are simple -- wealthy people can afford to ship off 15 percent of their income far more easily than someone working at Chili's for ten bucks an hour. Chili's waiter spends a far higher percentage of his income on things he actually needs. But the video is "Why the Flat Tax Works," so maybe we'll get to it...

"You will never get to ramming speed, we will never fully recover this economy so that we can have the capital that is necessary out there so that Americans can be able to pay for these exorbitant gas prices," he added.

Ah -- we need a regressive tax in the name of fairness and being able to afford gasoline.

And that's pretty much the whole video -- it's included at the end if you're interested, but there isn't any explanation of "why," no explanation of how he wants to cut taxes for "job creators" at the expense of lower-income Americans, and no indication he either understands the issues of income inequality or cares about them.

The rowing analogy is an echo of statements West made in January at the King's Academy, a West Palm Beach private school.

"Forty-seven percent of wage-earning households pay no federal income taxes. So basically 53 percent of this nation is pulling the wagon," he said. "Now, when that gets to be 50-50, when you have almost an equality between producers and people who are consumers, or entitlement, then you're going to have a serious issue."

That's all he says about it. Fifty percent is the magic number, and when as many people are giving as taking, there's a "serious issue," even though a Congressional Budget Office analysis found that, between 2005 and 2007, the top 20 percent of earners made more than the remaining 80 percent combined. That report also found that, while the middle 60 percent of wage earners saw their income grow by around 40 percent between 1979 and 2007, the top 1 percent saw their income grow by 275 percent -- drawing the line down the middle isn't fair, because the graph of income equality isn't a gentle slope; it's a hockey stick.

And bringing entitlements into the fray is a red herring -- even those who don't pay federal income taxes get payroll taxes taken out for Social Security and Medicare.

West might support the flat tax, but if he understands why beyond some concept of boat rowing, he hasn't gotten around to explaining it to the rest of us.

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Rich Abdill