New Castle News


February 27, 2014

Our Opinion:Tax reform proposal sounds good, but may lack support

NEW CASTLE — If there’s one thing that Democrats and Republicans in Washington agree on, it’s that America needs a simpler tax code.

But beyond that, the notion of tax reform gets a bit fuzzy. Definitions of what’s simple and what’s fair often depend upon one’s political point of view — or at least on who’s bankrolling various elected officials.

The federal tax code is a highly complex document, chock full of rules, exceptions and highly targeted benefits. While some tax breaks — such as those designated for contributions to recognized charities — are general in nature, others are intended to aid specific businesses, industries or interest groups.

And oftentimes, there is little, if any, evidence these tax breaks serve any larger good in terms of aiding the economy, preserving jobs, etc. It may just boil down to which lobbyist has the most clout in Congress.

This week, a long-awaited tax reform proposal emerged from a group of Republicans in Washington. Spearheaded by Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, an initial assessment of the plan suggests it is remarkably balanced, with something to offer both Republicans and Democrats.

The plan would eliminate many specialized deductions and tax breaks, while increasing the standard deduction. It also would lower tax rates across the board, while eliminating assorted loopholes that benefit the wealthy.

In short, many Americans would enjoy a simpler tax system and the whole process would be markedly fairer.

So we can expect official Washington to jump on the plan and make it the framework of substantial tax reform, right?

Not so fast. When asked about the whole thing, House Speaker John Boehner had this response: “Blah, blah, blah, blah. Listen, there’s a conversation that needs to begin. This is the beginning of the conversation.”

We’re at a loss to understand why any responsible official would think that “blah, blah, blah, blah” is part of this conversation. It looks decidedly like Boehner is trying to brush the whole thing off.

Unfortunately that’s likely to happen. In Washington, tax reform is a lot like the weather — everyone talks about it, but no one’s willing to do anything about it.

Boehner’s reluctance to embrace this reform plan may stem from who might be hurt by it. But more likely, he’s worried that any specific talk about tax reform will divide his party in an election year.

Sadly, politicians who advocate tax reform and simplification get a little wobbly when it comes down to the brass tacks of a real proposal. And these days, support for the compromises necessary to push reform through is hard to come by.

In other words, while there may be talk of tax reform in the coming months, it will take an intensive public push to get any action.

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