Republicans should bring Dems to the table to work on tax reform

Republicans should bring Dems to the table to work on tax reform

I follow bipartisan tax reform the way some folks follow “Game of Thrones.” Political hacks will tell you never to take a position on tax reform until it actually happens — no reason to have the amalgamated rubber producers or multinational tire importers mad at you without actually passing a bill. I’ve ignored that advice, and written not one, but two bipartisan tax reform bills in recent years, and I’ve found Republicans popular with conservatives to walk that plank with me.

All this is to say, I know a thing or two about bipartisan tax reform, and the one, most important, thing I can tell you about the bullet points that came out of the White House last month is that they are not the basis for any kind of reform. I’ve seen drug store receipts with more detail than the White House’s tax plan. Serious reform legislation requires serious ideas. This was a list of special interest ideas that have never been taken seriously.

The plan made clear it would give cakes to the fortunate few and leave crumbs for the working people. It would lower the corporate tax rate to 15 percent and end the estate tax. The plan also offered a 15 percent pass-through rate, which creates a loophole for the extremely wealthy to avoid paying their fair share to Social Security and Medicare by reclassifying their income. Compounded by its overall economic irresponsibility, this plan is a prescription for inequality.

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin himself, while on national television the morning after the “big reveal,” couldn’t guarantee that middle-class families would be safe from having to pay higher taxes. I simply cannot support any tax proposal that puts the wealthiest Americans before the middle class.

So where does the actual process go from here? Democrats are looking for the administration to prove they’re going to be honest brokers. Unfortunately, the White House isn’t doing themselves any favors.

In so many areas with this administration, it can seem like one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is up to. The president’s closest economic advisers get up and say one thing, and then the press secretary says another.

Or worse, the president takes one position on a Tuesday, and he’s pulled a complete 180 by Wednesday afternoon. We’ve seen it with day-to-day policy decisions, both domestic and national security. This makes finding common ground on tax reform even more challenging.

Despite the unsettling state of affairs within the Trump administration, Democrats fully understand the overwhelming need to reform America’s tax code. But no Democrat can begin working on reform with the administration’s proposal as its foundation. I would welcome the opportunity to write a third bipartisan tax reform bill with my colleagues. It would have to be built around the bipartisan principles of competitive rates that bring red, white and blue jobs to America, economic responsibility and a tax code that’s at least as progressive as the current law. True tax reform gives all Americans the opportunity to get ahead and takes the best ideas from both sides of the aisle to move our country forward.

That’s why it’s discouraging that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Overnight Health Care: McConnell offering bill to raise tobacco-buying age to 21 | NC gov vetoes 'born alive' abortion bill | CMS backs off controversial abortion proposal HR 1 brings successful local, state reforms to the federal level and deserves passage MORE (R-Ky.) has said he plans on moving a tax bill with only Republican support. It’s called reconciliation, and this kind of process is as partisan as it gets.

I’ve always said bipartisanship is not about accepting the other side’s bad ideas. It’s not just about party check lists. It’s not about servicing the special interests. It’s about finding common ground, from the get go, and accepting each other’s good ideas. To make it happen, the majority party has to choose to act in good faith and show leadership in inviting both sides of the aisle to come together.

 

 

Wyden is ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee. The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.