September 12, 2012
MICHAEL BARONE: Obama Could Be The Odd Man Out On Tax Reform.
One of the services of the Simpson-Bowles Commission was to set out a path for tax reform, with lower income tax rates and removal of many tax preferences or, to use the commission’s term, tax expenditures.
It’s an approach that has been tried before and worked. Ronald Reagan called for such a reform in 1984 and, after much negotiating, it was hammered out in 1986. Lead roles were played by Treasury Secretary James Baker; the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Dan Rostenkowski; and the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Bob Packwood.
It wasn’t easy work, and at one point it required an extra pitcher or two of beer at an Irish pub for Packwood and his staffers.
Mitt Romney has endorsed a similar procedure. So has Paul Ryan, who included it in the budget he steered to passage in the House.
Romney and Ryan have been criticized for not providing specifics on which tax preferences they would eliminate.
But neither did the Simpson-Bowles Commission, which said that “the precise details and exact transition rules should be worked out in a variety of ways by the relevant congressional committees and the Treasury Department.” That’s how it worked in 1984-’86.
And at least some of the relevant congressional players have been working at it already. . . . The biggest obstacle to 1986-style tax reform is Barack Obama.
Of course. To Obama, the 1970s are the model, as we see in all sorts of ways. . . .