What Rand Paul's bonkers tax plan tells us about conservative economics

It's vivid proof that Republicans believe in magic — at least when it comes to taxes

Rand Paul
(Image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Rand Paul debuted his flat tax plan Thursday in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, and we shouldn't mince words: This plan is utterly bonkers. But it may yet have an impact on the presidential race, not because anything like it will ever be enacted, but because it's so radical that the other candidates will have to confront it. They might decide that it makes their own plans seem reasonable and practical by comparison. Or they might feel pressure to make their own ideas more sweeping to try to keep up. Either way, Paul's plan is vivid proof of the magical thinking that grips Republicans on the subject of taxes.

When you get to this line early in Paul's op-ed, you know you've entered an economic Bizarro World, where the most fantastical claims are sure to follow: "In consultation with some of the top tax experts in the country, including the Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore, former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, and Reagan economist Arthur Laffer, I devised a 21st-century tax code..." Those three are "some of the top tax experts in the country" in the same sense that Jenny McCarthy, Guy Fieri, and that lady down the street who ate her baby's placenta are "some of the top medical experts in the country." So what did Paul and his kitchen cabinet of cranks come up with?

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Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is a senior writer with The American Prospect magazine and a blogger for The Washington Post. His writing has appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines, and web sites, and he is the author or co-author of four books on media and politics.