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Boortzish behavior

Radio demagogue and far-right congressman campaign for a kooky tax plan

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The biggest issue with Neal Boortz's The Fair Tax Book isn't whether the national sales tax would be 23 percent or 30 percent, which is where most discussions bog down. Rather, the question is: Why believe Boortz on anything?

He was a columnist at CL until he flew into a fit after we asked him to start getting his facts straight. He's the guy who claimed Saddam Hussein's army was vastly more powerful than Hitler's Wehrmacht. He bombastically proclaimed over and over (I stopped counting at 40) that WMDs were found in Iraq. This week, he was furiously trying to rewrite reality by screeching that WMDs were never cited by the Bushies as the real reason we went to war.

With similar disingenuousness, his book is an attempt to steam roll logic with unproven assertions shouted through a bullhorn. Boortz belittles critics on his website who raise the 23 percent vs. 30 percent argument. Co-author (and U.S. Rep.) John Linder's calculations have been shown by many solid economists to be a sleight of hand.

Boortz, on his show, resorted to bluster when confronted with questions about the black market that might appear if we switched to a "fair tax." He sneered at a critic for suggesting that a $200,000 yacht could be purchased offshore. Real yachts cost $3 million, the slippery Boortz averred, ducking the question. The truth is that the mega-rich would retain a much larger percentage of their income than the working and middle classes -- and avoid taxes by, say, buying chateaus in France or yachts in the Caribbean.

And what about baby boomers' after-tax savings? We've paid taxes on that money at least once. Under the Linder/Boortz plan, we'd pay 23 percent or 30 percent (depending on if you're calculating by the methods used by states or by the alchemy Boortz uses) again when we withdraw our savings to pay for goods and services in retirement. Boortz's book offers boomers only a "screw you" for comfort. That's "fair"?

There would be no constitutional restriction on raising the tax percentage. Without a new constitutional amendment, there would be nothing preventing Congress from reimposing the income tax, on top of the "fair tax." The IRS might disappear, but a whole new bureaucracy is envisioned in Linder's law, and it would be inherently interested in tracking every citizen's expenditures. Hello, Big Brother.

Ultimately, Boortz is undone by his own hatreds. Last week, he was frothing about it being time to "punish the poor" and to "make their lives miserable." How can a guy with class warfare as his guiding principle possibly conceive a "fair tax"?

The unheard Palestinian

John Gareeb, a self-described internationalist, was in a dither last week over calls from the U.S. State Department. The government was frothing because Gareeb had the audacity to introduce some dinner guests to -- ohmygod! -- journalists. That the guests themselves were journalists only made the State's concern seem surreal.

Did I mention the visitors to Gareeb's Atlanta home were Palestinians? We're not supposed to hear anything about them that doesn't include the word "terrorist."

The State Department shouldn't have been concerned. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sent a reporter but ran no article on the visiting Palestinians. Compare that to when, say, Israel sent Cabinet Minister Benny Elon to Atlanta two years ago to drum up tourism among Christian end-of-time fanatics. The AJC lavished space on Elon and allowed him to describe himself as "dovish." Not exactly; he's a racist whose, um, solution for the Palestinians is to expel them entirely from their lands.

Back to Gareeb's Buckhead home.

Abedel Ruhman Y. Abu Shammala is the senior economics editor for Al-Ayyam, a leading Palestinian newspaper. Being an economics writer in Palestine is an easy job. There is no economy. The few exports of strawberries, olives and flowers, Abedel sighs, are controlled by Israel. "Our peasants keep very little profit," Abedel says.

He recites the other indignities, horrors and deprivations of a 37-year military occupation. His most cogent point refers to violence: "The militant groups like Hamas have fertile soil in poverty. Eliminate poverty and they evaporate."

Abdel began telling a story of a young man from Gaza. The youth was held -- no charges -- by Israelis and missed exams to get into college. A lost year. He finally entered a West Bank university, but it was shut down by Israel. He returned to Gaza and tried for six years to find work, then returned to the West Bank and finally graduated in 1995.

Meanwhile, the young man was forbidden from visiting Gaza -- even to attend funerals for his parents. "At every stage of his life, he has faced humiliation," Abedel says. Finally, the man hid in a cement mixer and was smuggled into Gaza, where he married and built a family.

"But this man still has a grudge," Abedel says. I anticipate he will tell me that the man became a militant, perhaps a suicide bomber. I'm wrong. "This man went to work for a newspaper because he thought he could help his people. You are looking at that man right now."

Read oh so much more from Group Senior Editor John Sugg at www.johnsugg.com.

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