Tackling tax reform

TACKLING TAX REFORM…. Prospects appear to be severely limited for major legislative initiatives in the 112th Congress, but there are clearly some big-ticket agenda items on the to-do list. President Obama, for example, would no doubt like to see lawmakers tackle comprehensive immigration reform and an overhaul of U.S. energy policy.

But in a Washington Monthly web exclusive this week, Andrew Ratzkin offers a different idea.

After the surprisingly productive lame duck session ends — whatever one’s views of the content of the legislation, the output was impressive — can there be any further hope for a continued affirmative Democratic agenda, or will the Party’s options boil down to defending the enactments of the outgoing Congress or capitulating to the incoming Republican agenda?

Democrats should reject such a false choice and instead seize upon a Republican perennial favorite: tax reform. Much the way that Bill Clinton elevated welfare reform following the 1994 mid-terms, major tax reform is an area ripe with bipartisan appeal and the potential to improve the Administration’s fortunes, whatever the Republican response. The tax code presents a major opportunity for significant action on a domestic priority during the coming Congress. Potentially, much of the energy to drive tax reforms to passage could stem from Tea Party supporters.

Tax reform should be built on two issues important to Republicans: simplification and a shift from income and payroll taxes, which are predominately taxes on work, toward a national consumption tax, as many in the Tea Party have advocated. However, these measures should be sculpted in such a way that they do not become figleaves for regressive taxation that falls disproportionately on the lower ranges of the income spectrum.

Ratzkin fleshes out the details of his vision in a worthwhile piece. Take a look.