Gimmickry isn’t policy-making

GIMMICKRY ISN’T POLICY-MAKING…. A week ago, Marc Ambinder noted one of the problems with the GOP’s far-right base: it “seems to have developed a notion that bromides are equivalent to policy-thinking.”

The observation came to mind this morning when I read that the Tea Party crowd has been crafting a “Contract From America” — intended to be a right-wing, grassroots version of 1994’s “Contract with America” — that the Republican Party apparently intends to ignore while it works on its own election-year platform.

Regardless, what the Tea Partiers have come up with doesn’t seem especially compelling.

This, for example, is the Contract From America’s tax position.

Adopt a simple and fair single-rate tax system by scrapping the internal revenue code and replacing it with one that is no longer than 4,543 words — the length of the original Constitution.

Maybe it’s just me, but policy gimmicks with no substantive foundation always seem rather child-like to me.

We’re a country of 310 million people with easily the largest economy on the planet. With all of the many breaks, incentives, rates, and penalties, the federal tax code is bound to be complicated. It’s unavoidable.

Folks can make the case that reforming the code could make it easier to understand. One could also argue that the tax code has loopholes that should be closed. And while I think it’s ridiculous, we can even have a debate about the merits of a “single-rate tax system,” instead of the progressive rate system.

But once we get into maximum word counts, we’ve quickly entered the realm of hollow gimmickry and arbitrary nonsense. It’s a bit like Republicans’ obsession over the number of pages in the Affordable Care Act. Who cares? Sometimes complex policies require complex instructions.

I’m trying to imagine the executives at Ford telling the engineers, “It’s time to design a new Mustang, but you can only use the number of parts found in the Model T. If it was good enough for our forebears…”