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Government, Politics & Issues

Steelman calls for flatter income tax, while Wagner hopes to eliminate it

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 31, 2011 - Missouri congressional candidates Sarah Steelman and Ann Wagner called for cutting the federal budget and revamping the tax code during separate appearances Saturday at the conservative Smart Girl Summit, held at the downtown Crowne Center.

The summit's final day also featured Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain, who brought attendees to their feet with his calls for curbing federal entitlement programs and getting rid of the Environmental Protection Agency.

A presidential straw poll of the roughly 200 attendees found Cain a close second before U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

Wagner, who is running for the 2nd District congressional seat, declared her support for eliminating the income tax and replace it with a sales or consumption tax. She predicted that Missouri voters "will be repealing the (state) income tax'' in 2012, when Wagner expects a proposal -- dubbed the "fair tax" -- to make it onto statewide ballots.

She added that she also would support a flat income tax. "Anything is better than the 60,000 pages we have now,'' Wagner said, referring to the federal tax code.

Steelman, meanwhile, contended that too much government spending and overregulation have led to the lack of jobs for millions of Americans. "It's government that stifles our ingenuity,'' said Steelman, garning applause from the summit's audience of about 200.

Steelman repeatedly linked U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., with President Barack Obama and asserted that both "believe that they know better than us." McCaskill, said Steelman, "pretends to worry about fiscal discipline'' but then votes for more federal spending.

"Smart girls know that when kids misbehave, you don't give them an increase in their allowance,'' Steelman said.

Steelman Highlights Outsider Status

She also won cheers when she declared her support for right-to-work legislation, on a national level, that would curb unions' rights. Steelman, the former state treasurer, also called for a "stronger energy policy" that would include more oil drilling on U.S. soil.

In an interview afterward, Steelman blasted Congress for allowing the debt ceiling fight to remain unresolved so close to Tuesday's deadline for the government to default on loan payments or on budgeted spending.

"It's irresponsible of Congress to let this get into a crisis," she said, adding that the issue should have been dealt with months ago.

Steelman, a former state treasurer, said she recognizes that the debt ceiling needs to be raised. "We need to pay our obligations, certainly," she said. But she added that she also advocates capping the growth of the federal government, and its budgets.

On tax issues, Steelman said she advocated "flattening the tax rates" for individuals and businesses, and the elimination of tax loopholes, although she was not specific on what she would cut.

Steelman also was in town Saturday for a "meet and greet" aimed at bolstering her primary contest against U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Wildwood, and perhaps local businessman John Brunner, who has yet to announce his candidacy.

Steelman's latest report showed her with $181,000 in the bank -- a fraction of Akin's $1.18 million. She said Saturday that the disparity reflected the fact that "fundraising is a challenge in this economy."

"I'm not a Washington congressman like Todd Akin, who can tap a bunch of PACs," Steelman added.

Cain Seeks End of Epa, Income Tax

Meanwhile, Republican presidential contender Cain -- who cited his improved standing in the polls -- highlighted his support for the "fair tax." He said that eliminating taxes on income, and imposing them instead on spending, was cheaper, fairer and a sure way to ignite economic growth.

Cain acknowledged, however, that many Americans remain skeptical. Before imposing the change, "we've got to educate the public first," he said.

If elected president, Cain said he would first call for lowering the top tax rates on corporations and individuals to 25 percent. He also wants to eliminate all taxes on capital gains.

Cain pledged to do away with the Environmental Protection Agency, saying it was an example of the type of overspending and overregulation that is crippling the government and hurting job creation.

"This economy doesn't need a compromise," he said. "It needs an injection."

But Cain arguably got his strongest applause when he asserted that the United States also suffers from "a moral crisis'' because of efforts to suppress religion. "The First Amendment says the government cannot impose religion on us,'' Cain said. "It does not say we cannot express our religion in public places."

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