We are going to hear a lot this year about how we could solve all of our fiscal problems if we would just raise the taxes on the top 1% of income earners back to the Clinton Era rates (or raise them from 35% to 39.6%). This is nonsense, of course; in 2009 the top 1% earned $1.3 trillion in income, so if we raised their income tax rate 4.6% we'd raise a grand total of $60 billion, assuming of course, that they didn't change their behavior when faced with higher income taxes (a bad assumption, as conservative economists have been telling people forever).
However, I have a different 1% plan. What if Republicans campaigned on this notion? Let's enact a new tax law that says that the minimum federal income tax anyone can pay is 1%. That is, your earned income tax credit and all of the other deductions that get us to the point where 49% of Americans pay no federal income tax -- let's wipe all those away, and institute a minimum 1%. Is that too much for the privilege of being a citizen? Is that going to impoverish anyone? Is anyone going to starve if they get that tiny bit of skin in the game -- $200 for someone who makes $20,000? I don't think so. But let's compare how much that would raise. The amount of income earned by people in the bottom 50% (I'm using this as a proxy for the 49% who pay no income tax) in 2009 was $1.05 trillion. So my 1% plan would raise approximately $10 billion in taxes. But (and here's the rub), we'd also be doing away with the $51 billion in earned income tax credits (in 2008) that are essentially negative income taxes paid by lower income individuals and families. The upshot: my 1% plan would raise almost the same amount as Obama's 1% plan, if not a little more.
The difference would be that my plan would be premised on the notion that all citizens should really pay a "fair share," as opposed to the entirely absurd premise that a "fair share" means the few people we call "wealthy" pay a lot more and most of the rest of my fellow Americans pay nothing.
Of course, neither plan would make a dent in our federal deficit. They'd just make one side or the other feel better.