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How flat will Rick Perry's flat tax be?

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Isaac Brekken/AP

(Read caption) Republican presidential candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry delivers a keynote address during the Western Republican Leadership Conference, Wednesday in Las Vegas.

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Rick Perry is going to propose a new flat rate income tax system sometime soon. He’s said it’s going to be “flatter and fairer” than Herman Cain’s signature “9-9-9” proposal. So just how flat is it going to be?

We ask that question because Mr. Perry’s plan, depending on its details, could be open to some of the same criticisms that GOP rivals have leveled at Cain’s triple 9 strategy.

The current income tax is levied in a stair-step of increasing rates the higher one’s income rises. A true flat tax, which would tax all income at one rate, thus would lower taxes for the wealthy and likely raise them for the poor and some percentage of the middle class, if it is to bring in anything close to the same amount of money produced by today’s system.

Rick Santorum, among others, hammered at this aspect of a flat tax in this week’s CNN debate. Speaking of Cain’s”9-9-9”, Santorum said, “I love his boldness ... but the fact of the matter is, reports are now out that 84 percent of Americans would pay more under his plan ... we’re talking about major increases in taxes on people”.

Cain’s already tweaking his proposal, carving out exemptions for those near the poverty line in order to soften what outside experts judge to be its regressive nature. Can Perry avoid such a retreat?

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