OPINION | Trump talks the tax-reform talk; now he must walk the walk
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Today, President Donald Trump spoke in Springfield, Mo., making a renewed pitch for “America-first” tax reform. Pointedly calling on Congress to “at least try to put the partisan posturing behind us,” Trump urged the creation of a “21st-century tax code that our people deserve.”

Joined by Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump says he'll decide on foreign aid cuts within a week Democrats push judge for quick action on Trump tax returns lawsuit Five key players in Trump's trade battles MORE, Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossTrump administration announces deal to avert tariffs on Mexican tomatoes Huawei grappling with 'live or die moment,' founder says Ex-counterintelligence official warns Trump administration not to be shortsighted on Huawei MORE, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Small Business Administrator Linda McMahonLinda Marie McMahonIvanka Trump urges support for groups that 'uplift' Baltimore amid father's criticism of city Trump campaign describes Corey Stewart super PAC as 'unconscionable' Pro-Trump group plans to spend 0M in six battleground states MORE and various elected officials, the president predicted “a big, beautiful comeback” that would come from cutting the tax burden on companies and workers. 

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Trump’s speech lacked full details but did lay out four high-level principles: a simplified tax code that ends loopholes that benefit the wealthy and special interests; a “competitive tax code” that he said will create higher wages; a tax code that gives relief to middle class families and a tax code that “brings back trillions in wealth that is parked overseas.” 

 

He decried slow economic growth and said “there’s no reason why we shouldn’t” go higher than 3-percent GDP growth with the right plan. He attacked a system that burdens everyday Americans who “do not have an army of accountants” and joked that he would be legislating against himself by targeting special interests and the wealthy. 

While the more protectionist undertones of the speech are certainly open to critique, the overall message was encouraging for fans of the free market and sorely needed in a time when Congress, the president and the American people need movement on conservative policy priorities.

While the economy has continued to grow at a faster-than-expected rate, voters are right to be disquieted after long months of standoffs produced no gains toward the ObamaCare repeal many have wanted for nearly a decade. Whether one is inclined to place more blame on congressional leadership or the president for that debacle, the last few months have been a slap in the face for Americans desperate for relief, as premiums rise and insurers exit the marketplace. 

During healthcare debates, President TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' MORE had taken a markedly hands-off approach, outsourcing, if you will, the policy details and political strategy to leadership in the House and Senate. 

This time, he seems eager to drive the conversation, but the hard work of translating a stirring speech into tangible policy is still to come. Finding agreement on a tax package will be difficult, though certainly not impossible. 

This discussion, though, cannot occur in a vacuum. At the end of September, Congress has to deal with the regular and usually unproductive fight that happens when it, once again, spends so much that the debt limit has to be raised. It looks like many in Congress are already prepared to argue for more spending in exchange for more debt. 

It also remains to be seen whether the president’s stated desire to work with both parties and deliver sweeping cuts will become reality or whether reform will require cobbling together a fractured Republican conference against united Democratic opposition.

Ultimately, the president is right — inspiring, even — in attacking a complicated, outdated system that harms American workers and small businesses. But turning inspiration into policy is the next and most important step.

Equally important is not forgetting the problem that drives high tax rates to begin with: runaway spending. Planning ahead for the next debt-limit fight and beyond with real plans to get things under control and implement broader budgetary reforms will be key.

Jonathan Bydlak is the founder and president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, an advocate for lower federal spending. He's also the creator of SpendingTracker.org. He is a fiscal policy expert and also served as director of fundraising on Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign. Follow him on Twitter @jbydlak and @Reduce_Spending.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.