Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

February 28, 2014

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.

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