By Ryan Ellis
House Speaker Paul Ryan today delivered a keynote-style speech on tax reform before the National Association of Manufacturers and later appeared on CNBC. The speech doesn’t have a lot in the way of policy specifics, but it does provide an insight into what the Speaker’s game plan is to get tax reform done this year.
Below are the six lessons Speaker Ryan wanted to communicate in the speech:
Tax reform is desperately needed. The Speaker pointed out how long it has been since Congress tackled tax reform (he got his driver’s license that year), how big the tax code is compared to things like the Bible, and how antiquated the tax code is for modern families and job creators. This establishes the “why” of tax reform as a big national priority.
Tax reform will be a unified House-Senate-White House effort. Unlike health care, this will be team ball. The White House, the House, and the Senate will have a bill ahead of time that they will all work on together. There will be a Republican tax reform bill, not a House or Senate one.
Start with family tax reform, not businesses. Most voters don’t want to hear about how tax reform is going to help businesses. Most voters want to know how tax reform is going to help them. So elected officials would do well to talk about simplifying tax season, letting 95 percent of families claim the standard deduction instead of itemizing, eliminating the AMT, and collapsing the number of tax brackets. Lead with people, not their bosses.
Business tax reform is about winning the global fight for jobs. The Speaker repeated the word “jobs” no fewer than 12 times in the speech. He mentioned how business tax reform is not about helping large, multinational corporations get a tax cut, but rather about making our economy globally competitive in the planetary race for jobs and capital. Business tax reform has to be about lowering rates for all forms of businesses, not just corporations. It must include territoriality alongside these lower rates to finally end the double taxation of business profits earned abroad. Jobs, jobs, jobs.
Tax reform needs to be permanent. There is a lot of loose talk in Washington about doing temporary tax relief. Speaker Ryan made it clear he wants no part of that. In order for businesses and families to have certainty to plan their economic lives, they can’t have a moving target at tax time. Those of us who worked on tax policy during the “extend the Bush tax cuts” era know exactly what the Speaker is talking about.
Tax reform requires perseverance. Again like health care, the permanent Beltway establishment will declare tax reform dead every step of the way. As they are proven wrong and tax reform advances, they will face no consequence for their bad track record and will again predict imminent doom. No matter, says Speaker Ryan. One step at a time.
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