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Steve Forbes: Perry’s flat tax ‘most exciting tax plan since Reagan’s’

Zachary Roth
The Lookout

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AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin

Steve Forbes, whose flat tax plan helped make him an unlikely contender for the Republican presidential nomination 15 years ago, is praising a new version of the idea from Rick Perry. And Forbes, who says he helped devise Perry's plan, left little doubt that he'll formally back the Texas governor before long.

In an interview with Yahoo News, Forbes called Perry's proposal, announced in a speech Wednesday, "the most exciting tax plan since Reagan's," in 1980.

Asked whether that included his own 1996 plan, Forbes said it did, because unlike him in 1996, when he fell short of upsetting front-runner Bob Dole, Perry "is going to win."

Forbes, the chief executive of his family's eponymous publishing empire, said the Perry camp reached out to him for help in crafting their plan. "We got into discussions of basic principles--how the thing might be shaped," he said. "The candidate concluded it ought be a simple rate. Make it as simple and bold as possible."

"The particulars, they're polishing off now, in terms of exemptions and rates," Forbes added. Perry's camp has said he'll release details of the plan in the coming weeks.

In a flat tax system, everyone pays the same rate, although some amount of income may be exempted from the tax. In Forbes's 1996 plan, the rate was 17 percent, but he said that Perry's preferred rate would likely be different. "It'll be a low rate," Forbes said.

Forbes hasn't officially said that he's backing any candidate, but he left little doubt that he'll formally get behind Perry soon. He said he would announce his support for one candidate soon, "and I don't think it'll surprise anyone."

Perry, the governor of Texas, has plummeted in polls of Republican voters after rocketing to the front of the pack this summer.

Asked whether the Perry plan would immediately raise as much tax revenue as the current system, Forbes did not answer directly. But he said that in the long-run, it would increase revenue, by spurring economic growth.

Many on the left argue that a flat tax would increase the tax burden on the poor, while easing the load on wealthier Americans.  Forbes dismissed those concerns.

"It's gonna be good for all taxpayers," he said.

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