TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Editorial Page Reactions to the House GOP Tax Reform Plan

Tax Reform LogoEditorial page reactions to the House GOP tax reform plan from

  • Bloomberg
  • New York Times
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Washington Post
  • USA Today

Bloomberg editorial, Dave Camp's Taxing Ambitions:

Of all the tasks before Congress -- funding the government, say, or naming post offices -- tax reform is probably the most necessary and most thankless. So it is a pleasant surprise that the Republican chairman of the House tax-writing committee has produced a common-sense tax-code overhaul with bipartisan appeal.

It would tax the rich more and close many special-interest loopholes. It would create jobs and spur economic growth. And it would retain progressivity.

So why is everyone bad-mouthing it? At least two reasons. One, everyone agrees it stands no chance of passage, so there's no cost to piling on. Two, everyone agrees that tax reform is good in theory, yet bad in practice: No one wants to give up their existing deduction or loophole to get there.

Nevertheless, the proposal from Representative Dave Camp of Michigan is worthwhile, if only as an illustration of an encouraging new strain of conservative thinking. It goes something like this: We still don't like tax increases, but sometimes they are necessary; we are still the pro-business party, but special-interest deductions are inherently unfair; and while we still disdain class warfare, certainly the top 1 percent can afford to pay more.

New York Times editorial, A Simpler Tax Plan, Not a Better One:

The Republican tax plan unveiled in the House on Wednesday ensures that there will be no tax reform in the near future. It refuses to ask for greater sacrifice from the rich to bring in desperately needed revenue for rebuilding the country and improving education, which Democrats correctly regard as a huge missed opportunity. Hard-line conservatives, on the other hand, insist that changing the tax code should include slashing revenue, which the proposal avoids.

As a result, leaders of both parties have made clear that there will be no vote on the plan, prepared by Representative Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. It is a mere conversation starter, and until Republicans realize the tax code is inadequate to meeting the nation’s growing needs, it will remain nothing more.

The nation’s tax system is full of special giveaways and unnecessary preferences, as Mr. Camp’s plan recognizes. But the goal should not be a system that leaves the wealthy undertaxed, doing nothing to reduce income inequality. The country’s problems are far bigger than a complicated Form 1040.

Wall Street Journal editorial, Tax Reform for Growth: Dave Camp's Plan Would Yield $700 Billion in Extra 'Dynamic' Revenue:

The smarter Republicans are trying to reclaim the mantle of economic opportunity, and on Wednesday Dave Camp climbed into this phone booth by proposing a detailed tax reform. The Chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee wants to lower tax rates and create a fairer, more efficient code, and his plan ought to shift the debate over taxes to growth from redistribution.

The American tax system has changed for the worse since the last reform in 1986, and Mr. Camp has spent three years learning about the dispiriting specifics, including more than 30 hearings. The Michigan Republican is a serious legislator who cares about policy, and his effort shows. We disagree with many details in his 979-page bill, but overall his direction is right. Even if his bill doesn't pass this year, its legwork will inform any future reform. 

Most weaknesses in Mr. Camp's plan are due to his trying to offer something that might attract a Democratic President and Senate. Many Republicans are also skeptical, believing they can coast to gains in November by attacking ObamaCare—full stop. They want to avoid voting on Mr. Camp's plan in the House.

Republicans should run against the health law, but they are already going to get those voters. They also need a positive agenda, especially for lifting growth and incomes. The GOP has made clear it's for cutting deficits. Now it needs to restore its reputation as the growth party, and Mr. Camp's proposal should start the debate.

Washington Post editorial, A House GOP Proposal for Tax Reform Is, Unfortunately, Dead on Arrival:

In A properly functioning Washington, the tax reform plan unveiled Wednesday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) would kick off a major debate over how to fix the federal government’s inefficient system of revenue collection. Mr. Camp proposes to overhaul both the corporate and individual tax codes, based on the principle that lower rates should be applied to a broader base of income — that is, one that is purged of many loopholes and deductions that litter current law. The Camp plan would reduce the corporate rate to 25 percent from a maximum of 35 percent and replace the seven marginal rates for individuals with three: 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent.

The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation scores the plan as essentially revenue-neutral; that is, it neither increases nor decreases the federal government’s total tax take. Its most innovative feature is an expansion of the standard deduction, which would take away any incentive to claim tax breaks from all but the wealthiest 5 percent of filers. For these people, Mr. Camp would trim both the mortgage-interest and charitable deductions. Mr. Camp is admirably specific about other ­special-interest goodies he would do away with to pay for his lower rates: The notorious special treatment of “carried interest” for hedge fund managers would go, as would the break for corporate jets that President Obama has frequently targeted.

In the actual Washington, alas, Mr. Camp’s proposal has basically no chance of passage, or even of being acted upon this year. Much of the blame for that belongs with the leaders of his party, who smell victory in the November elections and don’t want to do anything controversial — such as committing themselves to an actual positive agenda — that might put that prospect at risk. Instead of praising their fellow Republican’s plan, House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) threw cold water on it. ...

Mr. Camp’s proposal is a serious approach to a serious problem. It sets a standard of specificity that future gripers about our broken tax system should have to meet. It acknowledges that, for rates to come down, some popular loopholes will have to be constricted. It leans in favor of GOP priorities, to be sure, but incorporates some Democratic ones. And for all those reasons, no one on Capitol Hill seems interested.

USA Today editorial, What Tax Reform Conversation?:

Who wouldn't want a simpler tax code? Who wouldn't want to do away with 6 billion hours Americans spend preparing their income taxes every year, or the $168 billion they pay people to help them? Except for the tax professionals and software makers who rake in that $168 billion, this is a no-brainer. Calling for a simpler tax code is one of the surest-fire applause lines in American politics.

Sure fire, that is, until someone actually puts a credible plan on the table. Then what happens is like the cliché about why Congress can't balance the budget: Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to do what it takes to get there. Any serious tax or budget plan requires hard trade-offs, and it's so much easier to be for the idea of simpler taxes than do what it takes to make that happen. ...

Camp deserves credit for doing the spade work and putting out a plan that he knew would be shelled from all directions, which is more than President Obama and top congressional Democrats have done, despite their professed support for tax simplification.

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