Astroturf organizers are pushing the “fair tax”. The term is one of those “exactly the opposite of what it really means” phrases, like Bush’s Clear Skies initiative that actually weakened parts of the Clean Air Act. The Fair Tax, being pushed at both the national and the Missouri level, proposes replacing the income tax with a larger sales tax.

And it’s fair all right, in fact, more than fair–to the wealthy. Under the bill that was proposed in the last state legislative session (HJR 36), those making a million dollars or more a year would, according to estimates by the Missouri Budget Project, pay about $22,000 less in taxes a year. But 95 percent of us would pay more, especially those in the middle. Those making around $37,000 a year would pay about $2,000 more in taxes.

So you’ll find various organizations, the same ones in general who astroturfed the last round of Tea Parties, pushing the fallacious notion that we could eliminate the state income tax, raise the state sales tax from 3 percent to 5.11 percent, and fund all the same programs. But Missouri Budget Project figures that the sales tax would have to be closer to 10 percent to generate the same revenue, and that the 10 percent tax would be levied on virtually everything. You’d pay sales tax to the plumber, sales tax on medicine, sales tax on day care, sales tax on rent, sales tax on groceries, sales tax on auto repairs, sales tax on nursing homes and funerals and doctor’s visits. Hell, sales tax on smiles and handshakes.

No wonder Rex Sinquefield of the Show Me Institute is one of the astroturfers. Sinqufield has moolah to spare to push his pet projects: charter schools, free market health care reform. And sales taxes out the wazoo.

The latest astroturf-organized event was in Columbia last Saturday at the Boone County Fairgrounds. Samuel Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. Joe the Plumber, spoke and peddled his new book. People railed about government spending and about how the feds should butt out of everybody’s business. They joked about Obama’s immigration status. Depending on whether you believe the organizers or other folks, it drew either 4,160 people or between one and two thousand.

I don’t see this nonsense going anywhere. The proposed ballot initiative got through the House but wasn’t even brought up in the saner Senate. Its existence is more like having a couple of gnats tag teaming each other in front of your eyes when you’re taking a walk. On the other hand, it’s not wise to completely write off the crazies, especially in a state like Missouri. We’ll keep an eye on it.