As the due date for federal personal income taxes approaches, taxes seem to be very much on many people’s minds today. Not the least of those is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee who takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to pitch the tax reform his committee has come up with:
Last year, my Democratic counterpart on the Ways and Means Committee, Sandy Levin of Michigan, and I created 11 bipartisan working groups to tackle different parts of the tax code. One of those, headed by Diane Black (R., Tenn.) and Danny Davis (D., Ill.), looked into those education provisions. After months of work, the leaders of the working group recently came forward with a plan that consolidates four of these provisions into one improved credit, making it easier for families and students to afford a college education.
Paired with more commonsense reforms like increasing the standard deduction and the child tax credit will mean that nearly 95% of the country can get the lowest possible tax rate by just filing the basic IRS 1040A form—no more itemizing, no more keeping track of all those receipts, and no more filling out all those extra schedules, forms and work sheets.
Second, the tax code will be made more effective and efficient by getting rid of special-interest handouts, which will mean lower tax rates for individuals, families and all businesses. Under this plan, over 99% of tax filers will face a top tax rate of 25%—allowing small and large businesses alike to expand operations, hire new workers and increase benefits and take home pay. On the individual side, there will be an introductory bracket of 10%.
Third, make the tax code fairer and more accountable. That means no more hidden provisions that benefit a favored few, and no more tax increases to fuel more spending.
Most Americans aren’t aware of it but the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is one of the most powerful people in the country, second or third most powerful in the House by most accounts. Remember Tommy Lee Jones’s portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln? Stevens was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. It used to be that the majority leader and chairman of W&M were synonymous. The committee has its finger in almost every pie, determining what the House will or won’t do. The Speaker decides what will come to the floor. The chairman of Ways and Means determines its contours.
Tax reform isn’t just a discussion about the minutiae of tax rates. It’s an argument about the nature of the country. Historically, we’ve had major tax reform roughly once every twenty years. The last such reform was 30 years ago—we’re overdue.
Tax law doesn’t stand still between major reform. It’s changed so frequently it’s impossible for anyone to really understand it. It gathers accretions like a ship gathers barnacles and, like barnacles, the accretions impede progress. Postponing major tax reform is a statement itself. It says that wealthy and powerful interests will have increasing power in the country.