Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson rolled out a flat tax plan Monday, just days after a major upheaval in his campaign.
Last week, five Carson staffers resigned, including campaign manager Barry Bennett, deputy campaign manager Lisa Cohen and communications director Doug Watts. Two other lower level staffers also resigned. In statements and interviews, Bennett and Cohen cited doubts about the campaign’s future and irreconcilable differences with one of Carson’s friends, Armstrong Williams. Bennett told NBC News that Williams was misguiding the candidate and encouraging him to do “stupid” things.
So just as Carson did while plunging in the polls in December amid the race’s renewed focus on foreign policy and terrorism, the candidate sought to change the conversation by releasing his tax plan online.
The retired-neurosurgeon-turned-Republican-candidate proposed a flat 14.9% flat tax on all income for individuals and corporations alike; his plan eliminates all deductions including the mortgage interest deduction and all taxes on capital gains. The flat tax only applies to those making 150% above the poverty line; those below it would make a unspecified “de minimis payment,” the campaign said.
While flat tax plans are hugely popular among the 2016 Republicans who embrace the idea as a simpler tax to replace the complicated, 504-page federal tax code, economists say flat taxes just don’t add up. According to a CNBC analysis, most Americans – except for the very rich – would end up paying more taxes, and much of the burden would be shouldered by the middle class. After Carson said his flat tax would be close to 15% in the November debate, PolitiFact declared that that it would indeed leave the country with a $1 trillion shortfall.
Politically, a flat tax would face big barriers from special interests and voters, who would oppose the elimination of long-untouchable and hugely popular tax deductions like on mortgage interest and charitable giving. “The overwhelming majority of Americans do not benefit from these itemized deductions,” Carson’s plan states, arguing against these two deductions.
Carson promoted the tax plan and defended his campaign shakeup in interviews on Monday.
“The number of people that have left have been a handful, it’s been exaggerated enormously,” he said on Fox News. “There were a few people who couldn’t live with those changes and we gave them an opportunity to resign and that’s fine.”
The remark contradicts what Bennett told NBC News last week, noting that Carson had been surprised by his resignation and asked him to reconsider.
“I don’t need to bang my head against the wall anymore,” Bennett said.