Learning To Love Tax Reform Talk

We’ll be the first to tell you that U.S. Representative Dave Camp’s (R-MI) Tax Reform Act of 2014 isn’t likely to make the perilous journey from pie-in-the-sky dream bill to law of the land.

The phrase “blah blah blah” was just one way House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) described his fellow Republican’s lengthy tax reform proposal when it was released last week.

So why devote an hour to the topic, you might ask? Why spend time working through the intricacies of tax code in the hypothetical when the very real tax day deadline is fast approaching?

Mostly, it’s because this is sometimes how policy change happens. Tax reform is one big policy initiative where both Republicans and Democrats find themselves largely in agreement. Sure, the specific policy tweaks and code overhauls vary, but politicians in both parties have given a lot of time to complaining about the tax code and blaming it for a variety of economic ills currently plaguing the U.S. economy.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed penned just before his reform act was published last week, Rep. Camp wrote: “Tax reform needs to be about strengthening the economy and making the code simpler and fairer. That’s what Republican President Ronald Reagan did when he worked with Democrats in Congress in 1986. We need to get to work and repeat that success.”

And in a way, his allusion serves as a helpful reminder that tax reform can be terribly fascinating. The wonderful 1988 book, “Showdown at Gucci Gulch,” details the 1986 tax reform adventure that laid the groundwork for the messy tax code of today. At the time, the deal was heralded as a major bipartisan breakthrough. The code it created was cleaner, simpler and in many ways, better than the one it replaced.

But as the book indicates, it takes a long, long time for tax policy to become law. Just as President Barack Obama’s budget (released today) won’t be enacted or written into law, so too will Rep. Camp’s tax reform be remembered as an interesting set of ideas. It’s those ideas that help make policy become reality. Hope our hour today helped you start to think.

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