- - Thursday, March 2, 2017


President Trump, in his remarkable speech earlier this week urged Democrats and Republicans to come together to “move the nation forward.” One place to co-operate — you might think all could agree — is on tax reform.

America’s corporate tax rate is the highest in the industrialized world. It’s one of the reasons companies and jobs have been moving overseas with increasing velocity, something that everyone in Washington finds troubling. A job is neither liberal nor conservative, but necessary.

In telephone interviews conducted before the president’s speech, the Tarrance Group, a polling and research firm, found that 75 percent of a thousand registered Republicans throughout the country identify tax reform as “very important,” both to themselves and to the nation.

These are the voters who put Donald Trump and the Republicans in place in Washington. The president’s approval rating among these voters stands at 89 percent, with 78 percent saying they “strongly approve” of his performance. The approval rate for the congressional leadership is almost as high, with 77 percent having a favorable opinion of the Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

These voters expect tax reform. They told the pollsters they think the current system is too complicated and the rates too high. This is the tax system that Jimmy Carter, the former president and a Democrat, famously called “a disgrace to the human race.” The voters questioned by the Tarrance Group endorse, by 85 percent to 8 percent, the broad elements of reform in what House Republicans call their “Better Way” package.

They say it will make the tax code flat and fair, and will create jobs, raise wages, and make the economy grow. Authentic tax reform can do that and more, as the nation learned in the 1920s, the 1960s, and most recently in the 1980s, when the Reagan tax reform led to a boom that lasted well beyond the eight years Ronald Reagan worked in the Oval Office.

Tax reform is important to Trump Republicans, Tea Party Republicans, and Regular Republicans — 75 percent of them say so — and in normal times reform would move full speed ahead. But times are not normal, as many have noticed. Lobbyists for corporate interests to be adversely affected by changes to the tax code are pouring molasses in the works.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who wants to make this his signature accomplishment, put together a plan for reform last year that seemed designed to attract Democratic support, and with Hillary Clinton’s signature in mind. The reform he’s pushing now does not reflect the new political reality.

Some of the players on President Trump’s economic team may be too concerned with special interests, as befits their ties to Goldman Sachs, and aren’t concerned enough with what the average American, who gets no million-dollar Christmas bonus, wants and expects. But everyone wants to get tax rates down and streamline the code so that it isn’t any longer “a disgrace to the human race.”

Reform does not have to be done at once. The Reagan reforms were made in stages, too. What matters is keeping the ball moving forward.

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