Tag Archives: tax reform

They call it ‘tax reform,’ but is it … really?

Here comes the legislative bum’s rush once again.

Just as congressional Republicans sought to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act all by themselves, they’re trying the same thing with what they’re calling “tax reform.”

Except that it doesn’t “reform” anything. It cuts taxes for the wealthiest Americans and, according to at least one prominent study, will increase taxes for middle-income Americans.

The House of Representatives zoomed this tax cut through that chamber with a narrow vote. Now it goes to the Senate. And you know what? It’s running into trouble.

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin opposes it because it does too little for small business. GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine opposes it as well because it cuts out the individual mandate required by the ACA. That’s two “no” votes. The tax plan is officially on the bubble.

I believe I’ll now mention what it does to the deficit. It explodes the deficit and for those of us deficit hawks, it piles on more money to the national debt, which Republicans are fond of saying increased during President Barack Obama’s two terms in office.

Senate puts up roadblocks

I keep circling back to this notion that no single party can do anything constructive without the other party. Republicans haven’t yet learned that lesson now that they control the White House in addition to both congressional chambers.

This star-chamber style of legislating — with major bills being discussed in private by members of one party — is harmful to legislative process and to the principle of effective governance.

As GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona has implored his colleagues, “Let’s return to ‘regular order.'” That means, among other things, bringing the other party into the discussion.

Watergate-style blowout awaits GOP?

Ted Cruz thinks congressional Republicans face the possibility of a “Watergate-style blowout” in 2018 if they fail to enact a health care overhaul and reform federal taxes.

I think the Texas Republican U.S. senator is on to something, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Indeed, I agree that the GOP is vulnerable to a big mid-term election shellacking, but I disagree with the reasons cited by Cruz.

Republicans might take their hits if they seek to enact a health care overhaul similar to what they sought to do already. As for tax reform, those big cuts for the wealthy aren’t going over well, either, with the public.

The president of the United States already has drawn a bead on the Affordable Care Act. He is using his executive authority to dismantle the ACA even before Congress approves any sort of replacement.

All the while, the president hasn’t yet spoken with any semblance of detail about how he intends to replace the ACA. He just keeps yammering about the “disaster” that awaits if the ACA remains on the books.

As for tax reform, Donald Trump is equally vague about how his planned tax cuts will boost a national economy that’s already rocking along fairly nicely.

And so the drama continues. Sen. Cruz thinks the public will vote Republicans out of Congress if they fail to deal with these two issues. I tend to believe the public will rebel if they proceed along the wrongheaded paths they’ve already staked out.

Should the Republicans suffer those kinds of losses, count me as one American who won’t shed any tears.

Tax return questions are back

I cannot believe this is actually happening … well, actually I can.

Donald J. Trump’s tax returns — those documents he has refused to release for public review — are about to return once again to the center ring of the circus that describes the president’s administration.

The president is now pitching a tax reform/tax cut proposal he says won’t affect him and his family. He’s filthy rich, or so he’s told us repeatedly since he stormed onto the nation’s political stage in June 2015. The tax reform proposal, according to Trump, is meant to benefit middle-class Americans. The rich folks like the president won’t get a break … allegedly.

That assertion is getting careful scrutiny from the media and tax analysts who suggest that Trump would benefit significantly from what he and his economics team are proposing.

So-o-o-o …

How might we learn whether the president benefits from this tax plan? Oh, I’ve got it! Let’s look at his tax returns! 

Trump has declined to release the returns, flouting a presidential candidate custom dating back to 1976; every major-party nominee for four decades has released those returns in the interest of full disclosure. Trump said “no.” He said he’s under an Internal Revenue Service audit. The IRS says an audit doesn’t prevent release of those returns. Indeed, Trump never has actually produced any material evidence that he’s under audit.

But the point is this: Those hidden tax returns might become central to the public debate over the president’s tax reform/tax cut.

That is, if special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into “The Russia Thing” doesn’t produce those returns first.

Inquiring minds want to know the scope of Trump’s wealth, where it comes from and whether he would benefit materially from the tax plan he and his team are trying to sell to those of us who remain so skeptical of the president’s motives.

Stop the whopper about taxes, Mr. President

I won’t hang a goofy nickname on the president of the United States, such as, oh, “Lyin’ Donald.”

But for crying out loud, Mr. President, you keep repeating that whopper about Americans’ tax burden. Knock it off already!

Donald Trump is heading for North Dakota today to pitch his notion of comprehensive tax reform. He keeps saying that the United States is the “most taxed nation” on Earth. No! It is not. It’s not even close to the most taxed.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States ranks as No. 28 among nations on the total tax burden as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product. Those are 2015 figures, but my hunch is that they haven’t changed much in just two years.

The most taxed nation is Denmark, followed by France, Belgium and Finland. The U.S. burden is just less than Switzerland and a bit more than South Korea.

The tax burden percentage sits at around 27 percent, according to the OECD.

This is just yet another example of Donald Trump making things up to drive home some sort of political point.

Does he know he’s fabricating this tax burden notion? I suppose that if he makes this false statement knowingly, well, that would mean he’s telling an outright lie.

Imagine that, will ya?

Teamwork, not warnings, is in order, Mr. President

Teamwork, Mr. President. Teamwork.

You need to reach out for help from Congress, not issue warnings of an “or else” consequence if lawmakers fail to enact a “once in a generation” tax overhaul.

Donald Trump ventured to Missouri today to hawk a plan to change the federal tax system. His public remarks were, typically, short on details. The rough outlines suggest that the president wants to cut tax rates for wealthier Americans and perhaps simplify the monstrous tax code — which I read the other day comprises 78,000 pages.

Yikes, eh?

But as his the president’s style, he is putting pressure on Congress to do his bidding. What we learned, though, from the failed Republican-only effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is that the president needs to weigh in with detailed analysis and must be willing and able to argue the fine points of what he prefers from the lawmakers he needs to make it become law.

Time to pull together.

Trump failed famously to do any of that as the ACA repeal effort floundered and failed in the U.S. Senate.

Now he’s implying a threat to congressional leaders. “I think Congress is going to make a comeback. I hope so. I’ll tell you what, the United States is counting on it,” Trump said in Missouri.

I need to mention, too, that the president’s relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has gone from frosty to frigid. Trump needs McConnell at least as much as the other way around. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan — who presides over the body where all tax legislation originates — isn’t exactly singing the president’s praises of late, either.

Get in the game, Mr. President. If you want any sort of success, then it’s time for you to stop threatening and start cajoling.

Politics isn’t easy. Or simple. You can’t just make demands of legislators and expect them to march to your cadence. They have actual “bosses” back home, in their states and congressional districts, who they need to please.

They work for them, Mr. President. Not you.

Government is nothing like a business

We all have heard at least one political candidate say something like this: “I am going to insist that we run the government like a business.”

Donald John Trump Sr. took that boast to a spectacular level while campaigning for the presidency in 2016. He kept pointing to his business empire; he kept reminding us how rich he is; he said he would bring all of his immense business acumen into the White House, that he would get things done.

“It will be easy!” he bellowed time and again.

His election as president has shown us all — if not the president himself — that governing bears no resemblance to business.

All those “easy” tasks have become “hard.” Repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act? Exterminating the Islamic State? Reforming the federal tax code?

One man cannot do those things by himself. The president needs Congress to assist him. He needs the legislative branch to do its part. He needs to cajole and convince those who oppose him to support him.

Trump entered the political arena from a different universe. He parlayed an inheritance handed him by his father into a substantial business empire. He became the CEO of everything named “Trump.” He didn’t have to answer to anyone. Trump snapped his fingers and things got done. His sole goal was to enrich himself.

His business ventures have produced a mixed record. He’s had great success and great failures along the way.

Donald Trump brought that all of that business experience into a world that bears zero resemblance to the world that he departed.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently said Trump had set “excessive expectations” on how quickly he could enact his agenda. What is so wrong with that analysis? It makes perfect sense to many of us. A man with no government experience — and who exhibits no interest in learning how government works — expects to rack up achievements in the manner he did when he was the business empire CEO.

I’ve noted for many years that running government like a business is the height of naivete. Businesses do not operate under the principle of co-equal partnerships, but that’s what Donald Trump inherited when he took that presidential oath.

The president is learning — and I use the term “learning” with extreme caution — the hard way.

Tax ‘reform’ unveiled … now let’s see how it affects POTUS

I believe another mega-rich guy, the Texan H. Ross Perot, once said that the “devil is in the details.”

With that, one of the details of Donald John Trump’s tax proposal must include just how this “reform” affects the individual who has pitched it.

Yes, I’m talking about tax returns. Release them, Mr. President.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the president will not release those tax returns. There’s been enough information released already, he said. I disagree, quite naturally, with what the secretary suggests.

The major points about the president’s tax plan include a dramatic reduction — from 35 percent to 15 percent — in corporate income taxes for small businesses and a huge increase in the standard deduction for individuals’ tax returns.

As The Hill reported: “The plan would repeal taxes that mostly affect wealthy Americans, such as the alternative minimum tax for individuals and the estate tax. But it would also ‘eliminate targeted tax breaks that mainly benefit the wealthiest taxpayers,’ according to the one-page outline released Wednesday.”

Why is release of the president’s tax returns relevant? He has not divested himself of his huge business interests. Therefore, he stands to be affected in some fashion by what he has pitched. Americans have the right to know just how Donald Trump’s portfolio is affected.

He isn’t likely to release those returns just because many of his fellow Americans want him to do so. Still, it’s worth making the demand yet again. I believe I will keep yammering about the returns during Trump’s time in office.

But here’s another wrinkle.

How does the tax plan affect revenue to pay for at least two major Trump proposals: infrastructure repair and, yep, that dadgum wall.

Trump wants to spend about a trillion bucks to fix highways, bridges and airports. Will these tax cuts reduce cash flow into the Treasury, making it impossible to “pay as you go” on these projects?

Oh, and the wall is going to cost — according to varying estimates — as much as $25 billion. How does the president intend to pay for that project? Do not tell me “Mexico is going to pay for it.” That will not happen. 

As it’s often said: The president proposes, Congress disposes. You can bet your last nickel that congressional progressives will continue to insist that Trump release his tax returns as condition for any tax overhaul.

My gut tells me the disposition of this tax plan — absent the president’s release of his tax returns — continues to be one of the great mysteries in the nation’s capital.

100 days: real — or phony — benchmark for POTUS?

Donald John Trump now calls the 100-day threshold for presidential performance a phony standard.

That’s not what he was saying, however, while he was running for the office in 2016. He said repeatedly — and loudly — that he would do more than any other president in U.S. history during his first 100 days in office.

How has he done?

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act? Nothing. Tax reform? Zip. Infrastructure renovation? Forget it. The Wall on the southern border? Ha!

Yes, the president has signed a lot of executive orders. I like a few of them; most of them are clunkers.

Legislative accomplishment? The president has come up empty.

That means the 100-day report card — when it comes due — is going to record a pretty dismal job performance. Unless, of course, you’re Donald Trump, who’s been saying in consecutive breaths that he’s done more than any president in history and that the 100-day benchmark doesn’t mean a damn thing.

Trump’s victory in the 2016 election rewrote the political calculus on so many levels. He wasn’t supposed to win; he didn’t know anything about government; he insulted too many key political demographic groups.

Despite all of that he won the Electoral College by a comfortable — if not a massive — margin over Hillary Clinton.

He’s parlayed that changing political dynamic into some sort of success in his own mind.

I’m not buying the president’s version of success. And, yes, the 100-day marker for first-term presidents does matter, no matter what the current president might think publicly about it.

Trump’s big mouth threatens to swallow him

That dreaded 100-day “deadline” looms for Donald John Trump. We’re about one week away from it.

Will it produce a winning report card for the president? Will those of us in the peanut gallery be able to call the new president’s start a rousing success, which Trump himself has done already?

I do not believe so.

Does the 100-day mark matter? Perhaps it shouldn’t count as much as it does. President Franklin D. Roosevelt set up this artificial barrier when he took office in 1933 and it’s been held as sort of the benchmark for early presidential success ever since.

But it’s early in any new president’s term. Donald Trump is no different.

Except for one little thing.

All along the way en route to his winning the election, the Republican candidate for president kept telling us about all the things he would accomplish in those first 100 days.

* Affordable Care Act? Repealed and replaced.

* Tax reform? Enacted.

* Draining the swamp of corruption? He’d institute a new government ethic.

What’s happened? The ACA remains. Tax reform hasn’t even been introduced. The swamp is still full.

The president can count precious few legislative triumphs. In fact, I can’t think of any. Can you? He’s signed a lot of executive orders. I particularly like the one that banned government officials from becoming lobbyists immediately after leaving public service.

Sure, he launched that missile strike against Syria after that horrendous chemical weapons attack. I give the president kudos for that action. But he’s got North Korea sounding more threatening than ever; Trump said he dispatched the “great armada” led by the USS Carl Vinson, but the carrier-led strike group to date is nowhere near the Korean Peninsula.

Donald Trump’s very own big mouth has victimized him.

Just maybe once the president gets past this 100-day hurdle, he will decide to tone down his constant boastfulness and learn finally — finally! — that governance requires much more than shooting off one’s big mouth.

Health care overhaul? Kaput! Tax reform? That’s next!

Let’s see if we can figure this one out together.

Donald J. Trump and congressional Republicans botched a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, a law that took about a year of tough negotiation and dickering to enact in the first place.

Trump and his pals in Congress tried to do it in the span of 17 days. They failed to muster enough support from, oh, just about any faction within the GOP. TEA Party, Freedom Caucus, party moderates all hated the American Health Care Act, which the Republican congressional leadership pulled out of its backside in the dead of night.

ACA repeal and replace? Gone. Finished. As House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “(The Affordable Care Act) is the law of the land for the foreseeable future.”

What, then, do Trump and the Trumpkins — the gang that cannot legislate its way out of a wet paper bag — want to do now?

Tax reform. Tax reform!

ACA repeal and replacement was complicated enough. Indeed, the president admitted he didn’t realize it could be so complicated. No kidding, Mr. President.

I’ve got your “complicated” right here, though. If you’re going to take on the big stuff, you’ve decided to go after the biggest of them all: reforming the federal tax code.

Presidents of both parties have been saying for decades that the tax system is too complicated, too cumbersome, too this and too that. What have any of them accomplished? Damn little!

The tax system is a monstrous entity that requires careful study, analysis, expertise and patience to repair. Does anyone really think that the president of the United States — based on what we’ve just witnessed — is capable of learning the nuts and bolts of tax policy? Does he really and truly even give a crap about it?

And what about the speaker of the House, who presides over the congressional chamber where all tax policy must originate. How well do you think Paul Ryan did in engineering the House’s role in the cluster fudge that resulted in the ACA replacement meltdown late this past week?

Good luck, gentlemen. You will need all of it you can find if you have any chance of succeeding in this monumental effort.