Time is ripe for radical simplification of the tax code

2013-07-12T00:00:00Z Time is ripe for radical simplification of the tax codeCharles Krauthammer Washington Post Writers Group Arizona Daily Star

The conventional wisdom evolves. Yesterday, Washington was merely broken, gridlocked, dysfunctional. The passive voice spread the blame evenly. Today it's agreed that Republican obstructionism is the root of all evil - GOP resistance having now escalated to nihilism and indeed sabotage.

Sabotage carries a fine whiff of extralegal, anti-constitutional vandalism. This from media mandarins who barely bat an eyelash when President Obama unilaterally suspends parts of his own health-care law - just as he unilaterally stopped enforcing current immigration laws for 1.7 million young illegal immigrants, thereby enacting by executive order legislation that had failed in Congress.

Opposition to Obama's entitlement-state agenda - beginning with Obamacare, long before it began falling apart before our eyes - should be a source of pride for Republicans. Nevertheless, they shouldn't stop there. They should advance a reform agenda of their own.

The major thrust should be tax reform. The time could not be more ripe. The public is understandably agitated by an IRS scandal that showed not just the agency's usual arrogance and highhandedness but also its talent for waste, abuse, corruption and an overt favoritism that even Obama called outrageous.

Support for tax reform is already bipartisan. Its chief advocates are Democrat Max Baucus and Republican Dave Camp, respectively Senate and House chairs of the tax-writing committees. Their objective is the replication of President Reagan's 1986 bipartisan tax-reform triumph: closing loopholes and using that revenue to lower rates across the board, which helped propel two decades of near-uninterrupted economic growth.

Tax reform is the ultimate win-win. It levels the playing field by removing the advantage of lawyered, lobbied interests. It eliminates myriad distortions in capital allocation and lowers marginal rates - both of which spur economic growth. And it simplifies the code, thereby reducing the arbitrary and unaccountable discretion of IRS bureaucrats.

The House Republicans are preparing a 25 percent cut in the IRS budget. This is silly and small. It will change nothing. Radical simplification of the tax code will change everything.

Second, take a clear position on immigration reform. "Comprehensive" or piecemeal matters not. What matters is to stick to the essential principle: legalization in return for real border control - so that this is the last amnesty we will have to grant.

Any law containing both deserves support. The current Senate bill does not. Setting soft goals for border enforcement is an invitation to this and future administrations to fudge and fake.

Be clear. Be principled. Be unafraid. The country wants legalization and border control.

Third, on the policy front, demand from the president a clear policy on Afghanistan. After highly acrimonious exchanges with President Hamid Karzai, Obama is openly considering a complete pullout next year.

For four years, the president argued that our strategic interests require a residual presence in Afghanistan to prevent a re-establishment of terrorist safe havens in the region.

Does he still believe this? Enough with the agonized ambivalence. Obama must be made to argue the case one way or the other.

Stop the flotsam, reform the tax code, secure the border, demand clarity on Afghanistan. A modest, doable, responsible agenda for 2013.

Email Charles Krauthammer at letters@charleskrauthammer.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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