President Obama has been pleading with House Republican leaders lately to raise government revenues by overhauling the tax code to erase loopholes and other income exemptions.
It wasn’t an idea he campaigned on last year, though the chairmen of his deficit-reduction commission proposed doing just that in a report he shelved. The commission also wanted to use the higher revenues to offset lowering the tax rates in order to boost economic growth, jobs and investment, which, in turn, would boost tax revenues and reduce the deficits.
Cutting tax rates doesn’t play well with Democratic voters, though, so Mr. Obama campaigned on raising taxes on the rich, won a second term and then ran into a budget sequestration fight of his own making and a wall of resistance from the Republicans in Congress.
Since it’s now clear that Mr. Obama isn’t going to get any more tax revenue as long as the GOP controls the House, from where all revenue bills must originate, he is pursuing Plan B: Raise more tax revenues by ending billions of dollars in corporate welfare and other special tax preferences.
It looks like House Republicans are going to give Mr. Obama at least half of what he wants in a bill to lower tax rates. In fact, they have been working on a tax-reform bill that does just that for the past year in the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Throughout the sequester fight, however, the president has been acting as if House Speaker John A. Boehner and his deputies haven’t moved one iota in that direction.
At the height of that bitter battle last week, the president charged that the Republicans couldn’t come up with “one tax loophole” that they were willing to get rid of to bring in more revenue.
That charge, as with many of his hysterical accusations, was patently untrue.
House Republicans have held 20 separate hearings on comprehensive tax reform, and they have circulated a draft of their goals for wider discussion. Last month, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, Michigan Republican, announced the formation of 11 tax-reform working groups to comb through the tax code with the aim of cleansing it of its worst provisions.
The committee’s stated goal is “that comprehensive tax reform should include top corporate and individual tax rates of 25 percent. This goal is embedded in the House Republican budget resolutions for fiscal 2012 and 2013.
It would include lowering the corporate tax rate, which at 35 percent is the second-highest among the world’s largest economies. In a letter to Congress, a group of more than 20 top economists said that “such a move would likely lead to a more efficient allocation of resources, increased investment and employment in the United States, and higher wages.”
Mr. Boehner is making tax reform his top priority this year and has reserved the coveted H.R. 1 slot for the reform bill. “I got a green light,” Mr. Camp said last month, making it clear that he will move the bill out of committee in time to bring it to the House floor for a vote later this year.
The GOP’s tax-overhaul train is moving down the track, and the only remaining question now is how the president will deal with this issue in his second term.
It goes without saying that the president doesn’t have a clue about what produces stronger economic growth, jobs and the level of venture capital needed for new business expansion. His 2009 economic stimulus program, made up of big-spending, “shovel-ready” public-works projects and some temporary tax credits failed miserably.
In the fourth quarter of 2012, the Obama economy grew at a barely breathing 0.1 percent annual rate. Economists say the real unemployment rate is now 14.4 percent when discouraged, drop-out workers and others who can only find part-time jobs are folded into the numbers.
He’s tried to put all of the blame on Republicans for his failure, but voters aren’t buying that or his scare tactics in the budget sequestration battle. Neither are some White House reporters. “It sounds like you’re saying that this is a Republican problem and not one you bear any responsibility for,” piped up Associated Press White House reporter Julie Pace at his last news conference.