In this Republican primary season, no economic or monetary policy is too unorthodox for an electorate hungry for change.
The Republican field is filled with potential candidates who have called for radical overhauls of the tax code, the abolition of the IRS, an end to the Federal Reserve central bank— and even a return to the gold standard.
“Part of it is the very high level of unhappiness about taxation,” said longtime tax reform advocate and Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist. “And therefore people are looking for radical changes.”
Flirtation with deeply unorthodox economic policy is usually confined to the libertarian fringes of the Republican presidential fields (read: Ron Paul), but has increasingly bled into the mainstream. Only former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney represents the old-fashioned pro-business Republicanism of previous decades.
Newt Gingrich has proposed an optional flat tax of 15 percent. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels called for a value-added national sales tax paired with a flat tax. (Jon Huntsman passed a flat tax as governor of Utah, but hasn’t articulated a national platform.) And Paul wants no income or sales taxes at all, envisioning a government funded with tariffs, highway fees and excise taxes.
Further into the field, the plans get more exotic.
Herman Cain has backed the ‘Fair Tax’ plan, a proposal with a small, well-organized and vocal constituency, which would impose a national sales tax of just under 25 percent and abolish the income tax system. He has also backed a possible return to the gold standard — but only after we “significantly pay down our national debt, stabilize and grow our economy,” spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael told POLITICO.