I am about to praise a liberal, a Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus (search).

No, there's nothing wrong with your TV and you have not inadvertently tuned to one of the broadcast networks. This is still FOX News Channel.

Congressman Chaka Fattah (search) of Pennsylvania has proposed eliminating the cumbersome and to most of us indecipherable tax code and replacing it with a consumption tax. Instead of individuals and corporations paying a tax on earnings, Fattah wants to tax what we buy, sell, trade or acquire.

He estimates the current system costs the government $200 billion because of people who evade or break the law. And he notes that the top 27,000 earners of $500,000 or more pay little or no taxes legally.

The Congressional Research Service estimates more than $53 trillion changes hands through transactions or purchases every year. That's more than 20 times the 2004 federal budget.

Congressman Fatta says in order to protect the poor, transactions of $500 or less would be exempt and there may be other exemptions such as food. I like this idea.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert has proposed eliminating the income tax and replacing it with a flat tax or value added tax. President Bush has said it's an interesting concept worth studying.

Congressman Fattah criticizes Republicans for breaking decades of promises to make the tax code simpler. He is right to do so. Democrats, like Republicans, enjoy talking about reform, but don't do much about it. The tax code has allowed Members of Congress to perpetuate themselves in office by doling out tax breaks to campaign contributors and buying votes.

And that's a tax-free Column One for this week.

To check out more Column One features, click here.

What do you think? Send your responses to: afterhours@foxnews.com.

Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. His latest book is "What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America" is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.