Sunday, December 8, 2013
It's far too much to hope that a divided Congress, split between Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House, could find any agreement on tax reform with a Democratic president facing a tough re-election battle.
President Barack Obama's speech on extending tax cuts for the middle class scrolls past on a monitor as the audience listens in the East Room of the White House in Washington on Monday.
The Associated Press
Such things are, after all, what elections exist to decide. If Americans re-elect President Obama, then he will have the voter support he needs to implement his plans for raising taxes to support his ambitious plans.
And if he loses, and even more if Republicans take control of Congress as a whole, then their ideas for systemic reform can be put in place instead.
Right now, however, what we as a nation face is the culmination of a long series of bad choices on tax policy whose bill is coming due at a time of great political discord. The saddest part of that situation is that this crisis point was built into the system intentionally, to make it an election issue.
If all the tax policy implementations, expirations and exceptions that are scheduled to occur on Jan. 1, 2013, actually take place, Americans will face an estimated rise of $500 billion in their federal tax obligations.
That's why the president announced Monday he was willing to support a one-year extension of the rates implemented under President George W. Bush for people making less than $250,000 as long as taxes were allowed to rise on those making more.
Republicans, of course, want all the tax cuts maintained and made permanent. They are less likely to get what they want than Obama is because his party rules the Senate. But that won't end the issue, which will ultimately be decided by whichever side prevails in November.
Will tax policy ever stop being a political football? That seems unlikely, as the foundational views of both sides are radically different.
But taxes could become more rational, easy to understand and distributed more fairly, without including "sell-by dates" that keep businesses in turmoil and partisan juices flowing.
Or so we can hope.