GOP congressman Dave Camp of Michigan has been working on a tax code overhaul for some time now. Politico tells us that his work is not going well.
Why? Well, surprise: if you're a Republican, you can swear that you sincerely want to cut corporate loopholes, as part of the process of simplifying the tax code -- but when you actually try to do it, the affected industries get upset!
The email blasting Rep. Dave Camp's tax plan as "disastrous" arrived two days before a pivotal meeting between House Republican leaders and their chief tax writer.And tax reformers were also thwarted by an evil liberal stumbling block: the laws of math.
The subject line: "Republican tax plan threatens conservative talk radio and media localism." It came from Lee Spieckerman, a Dallas-based Fox News commentator and media entrepreneur, who urged party leaders to stop House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Camp's "kooky" tax "scheme." The email, obtained by POLITICO, had been forwarded to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other conservative talkers....
[Spieckerman] was not the only one worried about losing breaks.
... [Camp's] proposed tax rules for the financial industry set off alarm bells in New York earlier in the year. "The most feared man on Wall Street," the New York Post blared, above a picture of the mild-mannered Camp. "He's become Wall Street's public enemy No. 1."
... Lobbyists fretted they were about to become tax reform's losers. Wholesalers worried about losing an accounting method that saves them big on taxes. The American Iron and Steel Institute was concerned about industry’s ability to write off equipment expenses.
... When one member of the Rate Coalition, major businesses publicly backing reform, couldn't get assurances their favorite breaks would be spared, they bypassed Camp, going directly to [Speaker John] Boehner to urge him to put off reform, according to a leadership aide.
What's more, Republicans were committed to not raising the deficit, which meant they could not help one group without hurting another.Yup, that's how a zero-sum game works, guys! A shame that was such a difficult concept for you to grasp at the outset!
John Boehner claimed to care about this, but that was a bit of a joke:
Despite Boehner earlier this year reserving the symbolically important H.R. 1 for Camp's plan, leadership rarely talked up the idea beyond the usual platitudes.And while we're talking about visionary leadership:
Majority Leader Eric Cantor was widely believed to be particularly skeptical, and reform backers noticed when he left the issue off a September memo outlining House Republicans' agenda for the rest of the year.Of course, this is a Politico story, so the fault is, needless to say, as much the Democrats' as it is the Republicans':
In the days before the critical Boehner meeting, Camp brought in former Secretary of State James Baker, who had also been President Ronald Reagan’s chief of staff, to rally committee Republicans....Notice that the fact that Republicans break out in hives whenever there's a proposed tax increase on the wealthy or, God help us, big corporations is presented as their "long-running dispute with Democrats over tax increases." (See, it's just Democrats' stubborn refusal to negotiate away all such tax increases that's the problem! How can you say that Democrats are bargaining in good faith when they insist on coming away from the table with something they wanted?)
Baker told lawmakers it would be a "waste of time" and "impossible" to attempt tax reform without the support of the president, said Baker spokesman John Williams.
... as Baker's talk underscored, they didn't have the support of the White House. Their long-running dispute with Democrats over tax increases had scuttled budget efforts in recent years: the 2011 Obama-Boehner budget talks, the Biden group, the Supercommittee, Simpson-Bowles.
This is why I've never shared the concerns of so many lefty bloggers about an Obama sellout on the tax code or the "Grand Bargain" or whatever. I'm not saying that Obama wouldn't agree to compromises I'd consider unacceptable. But he clearly wants something in return from the rich and powerful -- and the rich and powerful, or at least the loudest and wingnuttiest of the rich and powerful, have told the GOP that they'll simply have none of it. And the GOP is happy to defer to these folks' wishes.
When and if the Republicans take over the entire federal government, we'll see a slashing of tax rates, unaccompanied by any attempt at "tax simplification." We'll never hear the phrase "tax simplification" or "tax reform" again -- it'll all be about the cuts.
And the budget will be busted yet again, as it usually is under tax-cutting GOP presidents. And it will be up to the next Democratic president after that to clean up the debt and deficit mess -- and to get blamed for it.