Income Tax Regulations books sit in the House Ways and Means Committee before the start of a markup hearing on the Tax Cut And Jobs Act in Washington on Nov. 9. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

In his Nov. 12 op-ed, "The new repeal-and-replace," George F. Will said that the next "repeal-and-replace" target should be the tax code.

The current tax code has grown to an unwieldy muddle of revenue-collection and social-engineering functions that should be separated. If the people, through their representatives, see fit to subsidize child-bearing, homeownership, support of local governments or other charities, etc., they should issue a check to the deserving individuals under separate legislation. The amounts should not increase with individual income as they do under the current deduction scheme. If the overt payments would embarrass the proponents, so should the deductions.

Businesses should be free to conduct themselves without contortions needed to avert taxation; profits should be taxed only when they reach individuals (or are sent overseas). A single rate should be applied to all income; those deemed to be too poor to pay should receive an overt stipend. The rate should be set to balance revenue and spending, plus or minus a few percentage points depending on whether it is time to simulate the economy or to pay down the deficit.

Imagine the spending discipline that would follow if each year’s budget were announced as the (single) tax rate.

R.A. LeFande, Silesia

The Nov. 13 front-page article "Difficult decisions loom on tax cuts" mentioned that the Senate version of the GOP tax bill would add $1.5 trillion to the debt. Just to be clear, that $1.5 trillion is in addition to the already humongous deficit spending that is baked in the cake with existing spending and revenue projections.

When President Ronald Reagan's tax-reduction package passed in 1981, the total U.S. public debt was about 25 percent of gross domestic product. The projection by the Congressional Budget Office is that the House tax-reform bill would result in public debt of 97.1 percent of gross domestic product in 10 years.

Then-Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) was a key figure in the passage of legislation that embodied supply-side economics: Federal revenue would increase after a tax cut because of rapid economic growth. When the deficit instead increased in the wake of the Reagan tax cuts, Kemp said he did not "worship at the shrine of a balanced budget."

Given the current full-speed-ahead attitude of the Republicans in Congress to cut taxes, an appropriate update of the Kemp quote should be: “Republicans now worship at the shrine of deficit spending.”

John Plashal, Great Falls