Tax Reform 2.0 would rob even more from America’s future

Tax Reform 2.0 would rob even more from America’s future.

by The Editorial Board, USA TODAY
Federal deficit is on track to top $1 trillion a year, but Republicans propose more tax cuts right before midterm elections: Our view

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady
(Photo: Michael Reynolds/epa-EFE)
The Congressional Budget Office projects that government’s borrowing is on track to top $1 trillion a year for as far as the eye can see. And, unlike a decade ago, there is no Great Recession to blame for all the red ink.

So what are House Republicans proposing, and what is the White House considering? More tax cuts, naturally.

Apparently, it isn’t enough that Republicans (and Democrats) have long ignored the health care and retirement programs that are the big drivers of deficits. Nor are they showing much remorse for making a bad situation worse last year with a 10-year, $1.5 trillion package of tax cuts largely directed toward wealthy individuals and corporations.

OPPOSING VIEW: Add more reforms to the nation’s tax code

The House GOP’s latest plan — called Tax Reform 2.0 — would rob even more from America’s future. As outlined by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the plan would:

►Make permanent the temporary tax cuts for the middle class that were part of last year’s measure but are scheduled to expire in 2025.

►Expand tax-deferred accounts, such as 529 college savings plans.

►Allow companies to write off more of their startup costs.

None of these proposals has been “scored” by the CBO. But the first one in particular would be expensive, costing hundreds of billions of dollars in the years following 2025.

Taken in isolation, these are not horrible ideas. What’s telling is that they could have been included in last year’s tax measure but weren’t.

When Republicans had a chance to get something enacted, they chose tax cuts for corporations, wealthy heirs and passive owners of privately held companies. Now, with midterm elections approaching but little chance of something actually getting through the Senate, Republicans are suddenly all about the middle class.

The Trump administration, meanwhile, isn’t even pretending to put the middle class first. The president’s economic team is considering a proposal to reduce taxes on investment income, a change that would disproportionately benefit the types of rich people who populate Donald Trump’s Cabinet.

The change, which would index capital gains to inflation, is the sort of thing that typically requires an act of Congress. But the administration is weighing doing it by executive fiat. And never mind that it would cost an estimated $100 billion over a decade.

The debt situation was bad enough during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It is worse now, willfully adding to the already vexing problem presented by the retirement of baby boomers, causing Medicare and Social Security costs to soar.

The latest tax ideas are classic examples of Washington being unable to address the common good, or to see beyond the next election. The nation’s leaders should be looking at ways to raise revenue and control spending on benefit programs, not new ways to balloon the national debt.

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