Genevieve Larkin exclaims in the film “Gold Diggers of 1937”: “It’s so hard to be good under the capitalist system!” (Lloyd Bacon, director)
CONCLUSION AND OVERVIEW
The most recent American corporate and individual tax “reform” proposal sketched by the President and Republican Congressional leadership is merely a “framework”. These ringleaders and their acolytes proclaim that genuine legislative planning and serious negotiations will create a robust document, a beneficial bill suitable for passage. However, the overall explicit and implicit policy substance (partisan aims) incorporated in the current outline probably will not become law. Even if a few elements of the “reform” scheme manage to pass the House and Senate and become law, at most this will represent modest tinkering with rather than major changes in the current tax code.
Why will the corporate and individual tax reform program advocated by the President and others generally fail to be enacted? First, partisan political divisions in America in general and Congress in particular are too severe. Although the Republicans control both Houses of Congress, their Senate majority is slim. Whereas Congressional Democrats for the most part have held ranks since the 2016 election, Republican unity, particularly within the Senate, has been fragile. Not all Republicans adopt the same (or Trump’s policies).
The corporate and individual tax code reflects a diversity of political (cultural) viewpoints. Consequently, perspectives regarding as well as campaigns to transform, modify, or preserve critical aspects of it reflect opinions. Thus competing cultural camps with assorted outlooks and aims engage in heated rhetorical battles to advance their interests. Moreover, these proposed so-called tax reforms represent significant ideological approaches, not merely cosmetic fixes and updates.
In recent years, compromise in Congress in various critical policy matters has appeared with less frequency and generally only grudgingly. If the Senate cannot repeal (or repeal and replace) Obamacare (Affordable Care Act), how will they manage to make substantial alterations in an extremely complex document such as the United States tax code? Donald Trump’s remarkable and shocking Presidential triumph in America’s 11/8/16 election has not been followed by Congressional passage of his legislative agenda (Inauguration Day was 1/20/17). Why will Democrats help President Trump and Republicans win a notable legislative victory on taxation with election 2018 coming into view?
In the United States, even though labels are not definitive and groups can overlap, look further at and beyond the “political” sphere. America of course has never been entirely homogeneous or unified. The widely-shared American Dream has been expressed and implemented in various ways. Yet America’s disagreements and debates currently are wide-ranging. The lines between and within camps are not always clear; moreover, individuals may be loyal (belong) to various (and often competing) categories.
In any case, the long list of America’s noteworthy splits and fractures makes it especially changing to enact wide-ranging changes in the core taxation (and spending, including entitlements) policy arena. There are liberals (progressives), conservatives (traditionalists), centrists (moderates), and independents. Populists (both left and right wing) confront the establishment (elites). Globalists contend with nationalists.
America, as a house divided, has rich versus poor, haves versus have-nots. Highlight the nation’s substantial economic inequality. Is America nowadays a Gilded Age era? Are economic and social mobility increasing?
Consider divisions relating to race (ethnicity), gender/sexuality, religion, age, geographic region, and urban/rural. Fierce quarrels rage not only over tax and spending policies, but also over health care. Heated fights occur on trade and tariff issues, economic regulation (how much is appropriate), abortion rights, immigration, gun ownership, and environmental fields such as climate change.
Moreover, President Trump probably will be unable to lead the contending camps inside and outside Congress toward a realization of his tax “reform” plan. Some circles fervently admire Trump. His “Make America Great Again!” and “America First” slogans and many of his policy pronouncements obviously appeal to large numbers of Americans. Yet he nowadays lacks sufficient influence over Congress as a whole, including parts of the Republican caucus. And among the nation in general, his popularity is quite low. Many observers see him as erratic in his outlook and imprudent and insensitive in his opinions and actions.
Moreover, Donald Trump lacks government insider experience. Rhetoric and behavior (and talents) suitable for running a successful family-owned business, a reality television show, or even a successful Presidential campaign are not necessarily appropriate (adequate; likely to succeed) in regard to leading a country well or inspiring Congress to adopt his policy agenda.
Although Trump won in the Electoral College, he decisively lost the popular vote tally. The popular vote outcome obviously reflects America’s sharp political divisions. Also, the Russian President “directed a vast cyberattack aimed at denying Hillary Clinton the presidency and installing Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office, the nation’s top intelligence agencies said in an extraordinary report” (NYTimes, 1/7/17, ppA1, 11). Trump’s popular vote defeat and reports on Russian political interference undermine Trump’s political “legitimacy” (faith in it) and thus his ability to lead effectively.
The President’s continued unwillingness to release his own tax returns makes it challenging for some to agree with his reform package. Might he or his family benefit from the proposed framework?
Over three decades have passed since the last notable US tax reform (Tax Reform Act of 1986). Even though many gurus complain about parts of the current personal and corporate tax system, there does not appear to be a widespread consensus as to how to dramatically overhaul it.
Keep in mind that the individual and corporate tax codes are not merely long and complicated. It is a rhetorical structure reflecting a large and complicated society. Its lengthy enshrined provisions and interpretations of them therefore frequently represent competing visions and values. America’s current tax laws took a long time to reach their current structure. The US from the vantage points of both individuals and corporations of course is a diverse and complex country; this parallels the complexity of the global economy, with which the nation is enmeshed. Some “special interests” will fight vigorously for the proposed “reform” (or parts of it), but other crews will lobby heatedly against all or many of its provisions. These considerations also make it very difficult, and particularly unlikely in the current domestic American political environment, for substantial tax changes (“reform” of whatever fashion) to occur.
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US Tax Reform- Propaganda and Prospects (10-9-17)