Via Dave Weigel, I see today that Rep. Dave Camp, who is set to take over at House Ways and Means, has been making some pretty sensible comments about tax reform that I daresay could piss off some self-described "conservatives" for all the right reasons:
I aim to launch and fight the tax reform battle once again. And, I am well aware that this might ruffle those who have used the tax code to benefit particular industries or activities at the expense of economic efficiency, simplicity, and fairness. The tax code should collect the revenue the government needs as efficiently as possible. It should not be a tool of industrial policy. I recognize that progress in this direction will not be easy. But what Washington needs to understand is that the American people are demanding action, and, more importantly, they are demanding results.
Here are my principles of reform: fairer, simpler, and conducive to growth. While I don't think the following questions are necessarily exhaustive -- and of course they can sometimes lead to conflicting answers -- they are the kinds of questions Washington needs to be asking:
Is the code simple enough for families and employers to allow for the efficient collection of necessary revenue or does complexity drive rates even higher and discourage productive economic activity?
Does the tax code create the incentive for companies to spend vast sums on creative tax planning rather than on growing and creating jobs?
Is the code reasonably flat or does it have a seemingly ever escalating number and level of rates that discourage work, savings, and investment?
Does the tax code try to dictate social and economic behavior by individuals Washington deems important by offering financial rewards or penalties in the tax code?
Does the tax code level the global playing field for American employers, or does it put endless obstacles in front of them?
Does the tax code treat employers and industries fairly or does it favor those who happen to be in fashion in Washington?
Some have used the term crony capitalism. While I did not coin the phrase, I want to end it. (emphasis mine)
This is interesting because a lot of what Camp is saying here is stuff that most grassroots conservatives and Tea Party folks, in my experience, actually endorse.
Yet Camp isn't a conservative or a Tea Partier; he's actually a fully paid-up member of the candy-ass RINO librul contingent (a term I used in mock-self-deprecating fashion, and with love), like yours truly (except he's actually elected). And candy-ass RINO libruls aren't supposed to believe stuff like this, let alone say it.
And I daresay that despite where most of the conservative grassroots and Tea Party folks come down on matters of tax simplification, a lot of self-described conservatives and pro-business types engaged in the advocacy professions will end up screaming blue murder if he actually pursues this because hey, it might just mean that Camp is willing to at least debate the merits of certain "pro-family" tax deductions or credits, a bunch of business write-offs and benefits that are in practice, as he indicates, tools of industrial policy, and potentially even things like the mortgage interest deduction-- which some tax experts I know think contributed in significant measure to the inflation of the real estate bubble which burst to devastating effect a few years ago (even though few of them say that publicly).
In other words, here we potentially have a situation in which the candy-ass RINO librul is proposing something that could, in practice, prove to be as radical if not more so-- especially if you're looking at it from the perspective of a business benefiting from certain tax breaks-- as anything Jim DeMint has ever seriously pursued.
That means that this is one of those rare moments when I'm not merely prepared to concede that I am, by most measures, a pretty moderate Republican. Actually, when statements like these are made, I'm quite happy to say "I'm with RINO so-and-so." Dave Camp is right, not just because he says all the stuff that all self-espoused conservatives say about using the tax code to promote economic growth, higher rates of employment, etc., etc. He's right because he's prepared to put perks and special treats that certain industries get, and certain groups want to promote certain social "goods," on the table if he can start molding a fairer, simpler, growth and efficiency-beneficial system. Here's hoping he sticks with this, and that this won't ultimately prove to be a terribly encouraging example of rhetoric, to be followed by insufficient action. [intro]