Now, President Trump and Republicans in Congress say they'll reform the tax code.
Yeah, easy peasy.
It would seem easy, indeed, to get everyone behind the idea that the U.S. system of taxation is in serious need of changes. Imagine if you were doing anything else today the same way you were doing it back in 1986, when President Reagan signed the last reform into law.
That's the year Geraldo Rivera opened what was supposed to be Al Capone's vault.
Family Ties, Cheers and The Golden Girls were the big hits on television. Oprah Winfrey went national with her daytime talk show.
A mobile phone looked about the size of a brick and cost more than $3,000.
The Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl.
Despite all the changes that have taken place since, it's hard to believe this White House and this Congress will be capable of making effective and sweeping changes that do right by the American people. In 1986, President Reagan needed Republicans and Democrats to hash out a compromise tax bill. Is that even a possibility in 2017-18?
State Rep. Jim Hendren of Gravette retweeted a comment by Twitter user @sarahstevenson the other day summarized a key part of the problem: "Everybody wants tax reform but nobody wants to lose their favorite deduction."
That's a pretty succinct observation of the greater problem. Trump pushes for lower corporate taxes as a way to attract businesses into the country and to encourage companies to raise wages and hire more employees. Critics decry the move as tax breaks for the wealthy.
Democrats traditionally say they want to increase taxes on the wealthy as a way to cut taxes for the middle class.
Republicans like Mitch McConnell have said the Democrats aren't interested in the kinds of changes necessary to get the nation's economic future in order. Democrats tend to paint Republican proposals as harshly insensitive to the plight of the average American.
And it's hard to imagine the two parties locking arms in the White House Rose Garden behind a triumphant-looking president handing out pens as he signs legislation.
I'm the last person anyone would consider an expert on taxes or tax policy. Just ask my CPA wife. But from national policy perspective, the thing that worries me is the issue most politicians don't want to talk about: the massive gap between the taxes we collect and the amount of spending our federal government does.
It's not unusual to hear arguments that if we just cut taxes, it will effectively force government closer to living within its means, but when does that happen? Even at the much smaller scale of, for example, Washington County government, it didn't happen. Several years ago the Quorum Court trimmed a half-mill off its property tax rate. Back then, it seemed the county had plenty of money and plenty of room to trim. But in recent years, the county has whittled down reserves and justices of the peace continue to worry about paying the bills for basic services.
Conservatives candidates like to say government can adjust by getting rid of waste and fraud, but they virtually never cite a real example.
In any case, our country has been living too high on the hog for far too long. A responsible tax bill will feature a strategy to bring deficits down, which is in effect building a better tomorrow for our children, grandchildren and beyond.
Expecting elected officials to think long term is like expecting the Hogs to play the Red Wolves of Arkansas State. It's just not going to happen. Elections are always right around the corner and it seems that's as much a guiding force as anything. What's best for the country sometimes is sacrificed for what's best for the election cycle.
Tax reform is seriously needed in the United States. Doing it right means addressing the federal government's spending appetite or reconciling the way we fund government to those spending levels. I just don't think we have enough serious people in Washington to get the job done right.
I hope I'm wrong.
Commentary on 10/02/2017
Print Headline: A taxing issue