MONDAY: The Return of Flat Tax

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WASHINGTON: Last week’s spanking by the Senate may leave a permanent handprint on the IRS, far beyond the passel of suspensions reported Monday. But if serious tax reform ever really comes to pass, don't thank Pat Moynihan, or even long-time champion Dick Armey, its likely architect. Thank Steve Forbes. "Forbes took a beating for it," says TIME Washington correspondent James Carney, "but his campaign moved radical tax reform from an intellectual armchair debate into the mainstream, not just in the public but among conservatives themselves. The hearings, and whatever happens down the road, are a direct result of that candidacy."

For politicians, IRS bashing has always been good business. But for Republicans, who have had issue after issue sucked into the bottomless center, taxes are quickly becoming a last outpost of their identity. "But the average person has realized that tax cuts don't really provide a significant return," says Carney. "So Republicans need to give them simplicity." The Congressional elections of 1998 and 2000 will be drenched with the promises of radical reform. Armey has already planned a national tour. The question remains whether Republicans, given the mandate, could ever close ranks long enough to fulfill it.

  • The IRS has been accused of stealing software to do its work. Click on Netly News for details