• Twitter
  • Facebook
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Blank slate

I'm not really a big fan of the USA TODAY editorial page; it's mostly a collection of bland gasbaggery, "well-on-the-other-hand" vagueness and indecisiveness. Gotta salute 'em for this one, though:

As anyone who dreads April 15 knows, the code is a farce that wastes taxpayers' time and money, caters to the influential lobbies and corrupts Congress. In the quarter-century since the last reform, it has grown so complicated that it costs individuals and companies $160 billion each year to comply. That's nearly double what the federal government spends annually on highways, bridges, airports and other transportation projects.

Given the dysfunction on Capitol Hill, the latest tax reform effort could well come to naught. But the instigators of this newest plan — Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah — are doing everything possible to get it off the ground. They have launched their initiative on a bipartisan note in the Senate Finance Committee, and Baucus has developed a strong working relationship with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., who is pushing forward along similar lines.

Even more usefully, Baucus' finance panel has opted for what it calls a "blank slate" approach. Senators have until this Friday to submit their ideas for what tax breaks should remain in the code.

A zero-based approach puts the onus on lawmakers to justify their favorite tax breaks, which add up to about $1.3 trillion in backdoor spending every year. And this approach forces lawmakers to propose higher tax rates to pay for their breaks.

"Ccould well come to naught" -- who talks like that? It is editorialese for "fat chance,' which, alas, I suspect is accurate.