Tax reform: Breathe deeply, wait for finished product

Published 3:08 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2017

If Americans were ruled more by reason than by fervor, they might take a deeper breath over current tax reform efforts until they become more complete.

Six weeks of what passes for dialog in Washington has reduced tax reform legislation to apparent cold, thin gruel, unpalatable to a hungry people, unfathomable to people otherwise intelligent.

Southern Cal professor Edward D. Kleinbard says Republicans, leading the tax reform charge, are “voting for an ideology rather than tax legislation.” Fair enough.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

But in 2017, Democrats slid comfortably into the role of the “Party of No” and on this and all proposed major legislation they offer not ideas that might generate needed conversation and better bills but a feckless, party-based “resistance.” They draw their checks while disengaging from the process, not coming to work. This is loyal opposition?

Texans aren’t without a stake or hand in tax reform. U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Nov. 2. It was, by most appearances, a good faith effort at serious law.

The Texas Tribune characterized his bill’s goals as “cutting the corporate tax to 20 percent, lowering the number of income tax brackets from seven to four, increasing the child tax credit from $1,000 and repealing the estate tax in six years.” Overall, Texans would approve.

Opposition was immediate, damning and seemingly at odds with the facts.

At the outset, President Trump touted the bill as a “very big” benefit for the middle-class, the biggest tax cut ever. But even those open to the bill see it as more modest, of eventual benefit.

Brady claimed the estate tax burdens not the “super wealthy” but “family owned farms and businesses.” says that in 2015, the tax affected estates “worth more than $5.49 million” or almost “$11 million for a couple.” Some family farm.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York suggested no millionaires would pay more. FactCheck says some will. Nancy Pelosi says the bill will raise taxes on “millions” in the middle class; millions more will also see tax reductions.

On Wednesday, lawmakers go into conference to refine House and Senate versions of tax reform. Taxpayers should hope they leave hyperbole and distortion at the door, that Democrats engage instead of grandstand, that from this potentially important meeting something understandable and beneficial to all Americans emerges.

Our own congressman, Randy Weber, R-Friendswood, said he was “excited” as he read the original bill, eager to discuss it with constituents. We haven’t heard much.

Elements of the legislation, still in formation, are appealing. Some need vetting. Taxpayers should hold their enthusiasm until they see the final version – no matter what the party leaders say.