Brownback Wants to Make D.C. His "Laboratory"

Friday, March 10, 2006

Brownback Wants to Make D.C. His "Laboratory"

The Washington Times reported Thursday:
Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, has proposed using the District (of Columbia) as a "laboratory" to test how a flat federal income tax would affect its residents and economy.

Mr. Brownback said the District is perfect for the experiment because it is not a state.

"Here you have a federal enclave, as much as maybe people in the District don't like that terminology," he said. "Doing it in the District would give a real-world venue where we could witness what it could do for the country."
Brownback does a poor job of explaining precisely why D.C.'s status as "a federal enclave" necessarily makes it a better place for a flat tax experiment than his own state of Kansas.

The District's small size (both in square miles and population) and its demographics (majority black and disproportionately young) aren't at all representative of the nation as a whole. But Brownback's plan has some avid supporters, including Heritage Foundation economist Daniel Mitchell, who cheered the flat tax experiment. "D.C. would be the Hong Kong of America .... It would be a mecca," said Mitchell.

But is Hong Kong the standard to shoot for? A few months ago, the BBC reported:
The cost of housing on the overcrowded island has been pushed up by demand from outside, especially from wealthy investors .... Once thriving manufacturing industries such as the garment sector have disappeared across the border to the Chinese mainland, where labour is much cheaper.

... Wang Tung is a 64-year old unemployed worker who first moved to Hong Kong from mainland China in 1966. Since he lost his job in a plastics factory six years ago, he has been living on social security payments ... about one third of his former wage of HK$5,500.

Mr Tung, who is not married, lives in a "bed cage" consisting of a single bed in a room with a dozen other single men. All his possessions are in a shelf above the bed ...

There are thousands of Hong Kong workers who still live in such conditions, according to Sze Lai Shan, a community organiser with SOCO, a local community group. ... She added that as well as the bed cage dwellers, 150,000 households live in inadequate housing with shared toilet and cooking facilities.

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