Republican presidential contender Ben Carson on Saturday opposed the earned income tax credit, clashing with conservatives at an anti-poverty forum.
After GOP presidential rivals Jeb Bush and Chris Christie extolled the virtues of the program at a Jack Kemp Foundation panel discussion in Columbia, S.C., Carson said he opposed governmental “manipulation” in the tax code.
“I was just going to say, and it may not be a very popular thing to say, but, you know, earned income tax credits, any kind of manipulation of the tax system, you know, for whatever good reason, I just generally don’t agree with,” he said.
Carson said he is against the idea of a refundable tax credit for low-income workers, which was propounded by free-market economist Milton Friedman, because any governmental program will inevitably lead to bureaucracy.
“I think we need to make the income tax system very simple and extremely fair and stop having all these different variations, because what those things do is they create bureaucracies and the need for this agency and this agency, and it just feeds the system,” he said.
“The system is already too big.”
The retired neurosurgeon called for a 14.9 percent flat tax rate on income up to 150 percent of the poverty level when he released details his tax policy platform earlier this week.
His plan would raise taxes on the poor by eliminating current benefits like the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit.
He said every American needs to have “skin in the game” in order to make the tax system fair.
“You know, I want a completely flat tax — everybody pays exactly the same rate,” he said.
“So everybody needs to have skin in the game,” he added. You know, we are compassionate at the 150 percent poverty level. It’s where the 14.9 percent tax kicks in. Below that, you still have to pay a de minimis tax, because everybody has to have skin in the game, and it doesn’t make any sense to me for half the people not to pay any taxes, but have a say on how much others pay.”
Christie responded to Carson at the panel discussion, arguing that the earned income tax credit will actually reduce bureaucracy by sidestepping current benefits programs.
“I’m not saying that every one of these programs, the EITC or others, are perfect,” he said. “The EITC doesn’t create any more bureaucracy. The EITC is already embedded in our tax code in our tax system in New Jersey.”
The panel discussion was moderated by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) from South Carolina.