, Salem, MA


March 1, 2014

Shribman: Why tax reform is doomed


Camp defeated his Democratic rival by a margin of nearly 2-to-1 in 2012 — far bigger than former Gov. Mitt Romney’s margin over Obama in the same district — and his winning percentage in a dozen races in his district in Central Michigan has never dipped below 61 percent and once, in 1994, soared to 73 percent.

Almost everyone on both sides of the aisle comments on how mild-mannered he is. Except on one issue: the tax code.

His reprise line is that the tax code is 10 times the size of the Bible without the good news. The proposal he unveiled Wednesday would reduce the top rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent for all but some of the top 1 percent of filers, who would be subject to a 10 percent surcharge on some income.

Of course it was declared dead on arrival by all the coroners on Capitol Hill, who are better at performing autopsies than playing midwife to successful births. And in truth, there are some things about the Camp proposal that are not to everyone’s taste —or, to change senses but not tenses, there are in the Camp plan (many) things on which all lawmakers do not see eye to eye.

Camp and some others believe his proposal would spur growth of more than $3 billion, create nearly 2 million new jobs and bring an additional $700 billion in additional revenues. Maybe it will and maybe it won’t, but Camp deserves a hail and hurrah for even bringing the matter to the table.

There was a time, four decades ago, when the tax code had grown so hoary and mossy that a man could run for president and declare in his acceptance speech at his party’s national convention that the country’s income tax system was a “disgrace to the human race” (Jimmy Carter, July 15, 1976). He didn’t prevail and it took his successor, Ronald Reagan, more than five years (May 28, 1985) to begin his public offensive — an offensive that brought a landmark tax overhaul in 1986.

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