I really don't buy that a flat tax is going to make taxes so easy that everyone does their own taxes. The rate is easy to look up. Or the tax program you have does it automatically.
While I agree with simplifying the tax code to the extent possible, I think its just fantasy to think we can make any system that easy. Financial issues are complex because of the high number of different types of transactions we do, not because the rate is progressive.
While the flat tax is more intuitive in a vacuum, it runs into trouble when you put numbers to it. First, virtually every flat tax rate proposed raises less money, thus creating a bigger deficit. The ultra-rich make so, so, so much more money than the middle class that a reduction in their rate is going to reduce overall revenue even if the middle class pays more.
Second, virtually every flat tax plan increases the tax burden on the middle class. That just seems like a bad idea to me when the middle class is struggling so badly to keep its numbers up. This is true even if you get rid of deductions.
I can agree with many of you that we need to tax capital gains more. I understand the argument that its a double tax, but the capital gains tax only applies to the income created, not to the principal put in.
The estate tax draws a lot of emotional dislike that you mention, Brad. But to me, it passes both the fairness argument and the pragmatism argument. I think its fair because we are talking about money going to someone who did not earn it. Its kinda like winning the lottery. If we have to tax somebody(and we do), this seems like a better source of taxes than taking people's hard earned money. I don't have a problem, from a fairness standpoint, taxing unearned money a kid receives from his parents. I do understand that that money has already been taxed; but really, we are often taxed twice. Also, the kid receiving the money has never been taxed even once.
From a pragmatic standpoint(which no one here besides me seems to like), there is actually money there to be taxed, and the deceased no longer has any need of it. Most people also don't know that an estate tax applies only to VERY large estates. And it doesn't apply to assets that don't go into the estate, like jointly owned property.