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Perry's Cut, Balance and Grow Plan: The Details

The governor's introductory speech is here, the details of his plan are here. Evidently anticipating that critics would hit from multiple angles including defending the status quo, the Perry campaign has provided a series of graphs to show just how unwieldy the US tax code has become. Graphs like these:

How complex is our current tax code? Take a look.

Perry's flat tax plan would be optional, and for those who opt in, a postcard replaces the 3 million words that we all seem to need a tax pro or computer software to attempt to comply with.

The flat tax isn't new, of course. Steve Forbes ran for president on a flat tax proposal in 1996, and Sen. Bob Dole defeated Forbes in the primary but went on to put the flat tax at the center of his economic plans. Bill Clinton was re-elected, largely thanks to a strong economy and to his political decision to sign the Republicans' welfare reform, but the flat tax has been in the national conversation ever since.

Perry's plan also promises to undo President Obama's regulatory overreaches, through a combination of legislation and executive order.

As with any plan that requires Congressional action, Perry's could be expected to get ground up in the sausage machine a bit. But it's simpler than 9-9-9 (or 9.1-9.1-9.1 that we're on now) and certainly simpler and bolder than the Romney 59-point plan. By making it optional for taxpayers, Perry has probably increased the likelihood that it gets through Congress fairly intact.

The choice to roll the plan out in South Carolina is significant. Perry announced his presidential run there back in August but the RCP poll average has him in third place behind Cain and Romney. While Iowa and New Hampshire tend to split between candidates, the candidate who wins South Carolina tends to win nominations. As a southern governor of a right to work state, Perry is a natural fit for the state's conservative GOP electorate. He also has a sympatico in Gov. Nikki Haley. She has yet to endorse a candidate but is said to be being courted by Perry and Cain. Perry has spoken out strongly on a major South Carolina issue on which Haley has been a vocal leader -- the NLRB's assault on Boeing. A Haley endorsement of either candidate could help nearly as much as Gov. Charlie Crist's endorsement helped Sen. John McCain in 2008.

Together with his already announced energy plan, Rick Perry's flat tax plan is a solid and serious effort that's bold yet well within the GOP mainstream. It avoids gimmickry, deals with the mess that is our current tax code and introduces Social Security reform that could see to that program's future viability. Overall it is a very pro-growth plan that rolls back much of the damage President Obama has done. Time will tell whether Perry's plan changes the game or not.