“The tax area is one area where we can get things done.”
That was President Obama just one month ago, calling tax reform an issue on which the two parties might find common ground in 2015. It was an optimistic view, but one that many Republicans shared.
Fast forward to this weekend, and that optimism has, well, eroded, as we see now what the president had mind: a $320 billion tax hike on savings and investment, largely to fuel more Washington spending – and make the tax code even more complex.
One word comes to mind. Seriously?
The tax hike shows little understanding of where to find common ground with Republicans. Surely the White House knows a massive tax increase is not what the American people just sent a newly elected Republican Congress to do. And it’s the last thing a still-shaky economy needs.
As iconic Washington newsman Bob Schieffer put it to a senior administration official on Face the Nation yesterday, “I mean, is this for real?”
“It feels like a campaign because some of the things he’s proposing — nobody in Washington believes it can get through a Republican Congress,” Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd commented, summing up the media reaction.
Fortunately, reports indicate that the White House doesn’t even see the need to sell this plan. As Associated Press White House correspondent Julie Pace noted on CNN this weekend, “The President is going to India three days after his State of the Union address — a period of time when he normally would be out trying to rally Congress and the public behind his agenda. I think this says all you need to know about the likelihood that anything he announces on Tuesday actually gets done.”
We have to hope that this move is little more than an effort to score some points with his political base, and that we can move on from it quickly to see if we can find real common ground.
American families struggling with stagnating wages need a tax code that promotes economic growth and encourages work, investment, and productivity. More than anything, as House Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) put it, we need a tax code that is “fairer, flatter, and simpler.”
Let’s hope achieving that this year is still possible.
By Brendan Buck