Should one be grateful for Senator Thad Cochran’s return to the upper chamber after his recent health issues? The senator was apparently rather confused when reporters asked him a few simple questions in the halls of Congress, one of which supposedly was where the Senate chambers were located. No matter. His aides whisked him away, although it’s hard to imagine the verb ‘whisking’ applying to a 79-year old man recovering from health problems.

On that frail mind and body depended yesterday’s budget vote that now paves the way for tax reform. One that may very well fail, but at least has a chance to be voted on in the Senate without needing Democrat support. But the Senate shall make its own rules, and that’s how the future of tax reform hangs on the vote of someone who should be in bed, being attended to by his nurses.

Should we be angry at Kentucky’s Senator Paul, for being ideological instead of pragmatic on such an important issue for Americans and the economy? Perhaps, but his condition to get to a yes vote was pretty simple: keep to your own spending caps. A solitary voice saying you have to control spending to make any tax cut truly effective in terms of its longer term impact on the American economy. But that would require a simple commitment to not raise spending. Or at least by not too much. And even that slight nod towards the other side of fiscal discipline – spending restraint – is seen as disruptive by the media and by the Republican party. Easier to talk about cutting taxes by closing loopholes – unless the loopholes are deemed to important to key constituencies to be able to close.

So Rand is a disruptive radical for insisting on spending caps. And if you want to close all those loopholes in the tax system you need to realize this:

Some loopholes are apparently Too Big To Close (TBTC if you like). Look at the mortgage interest deduction. Consider high-tax states like New York and California and the angry reaction of those states’ GOP Members of Congress to plans to eliminate deduction of state and local taxes. How dare they? Every loophole has an army of lawyers/lobbyists defending it’s purpose, and the longer the loophole has been around the deeper it’s roots on K Street.

Does this sound like a Senate that’s ready to tackle substantial tax reform?

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