Everyone has a sacred cow or two.
And that's precisely the problem faced by congressional Republicans in their mad dash to hammer through the first major rewrite of the tax code in more than a generation. Republicans from the Northeast might be asked to swallow a poison pill by supporting the legislation that would end deductions for state and local taxes benefiting their constituents. Lawmakers friendly with real estate, too, should be gulping hard while eyeing the death of the mortgage tax deduction, proposed in the House version.
Taxes are, in a very real sense, government's best tool for social engineering. It rewards everything from home ownership to marriage. And what's come out of Congress so far rolls back most of those targeted benefits.
Enjoy that deduction for interest on student loans? Tough. Knocking corporate taxes from 35 percent to 20 percent is more important and someone's got to pay for it, say writers of the current proposals.
There's a reason U.S. tax code hasn't been seriously overhauled in more than three decades.
Throughout the country, pet industries -- especially those that compete with industries cozy with Republicans -- might pick up the tab for sweeping cuts for corporations, the wealthy and a doubling of the standard deduction.
Take, for example, Iowa's booming wind energy sector. MidAmerican Energy has pumped a cool $1 billion into gargantuan wind projects in recent years. That investment was spurred by three factors: Growing consumer environmental awareness, more efficient technology and, yes, tax benefits.
But, now, the nation is led by pro-oil and coal interests incapable of uttering the words "climate change." Unsurprisingly, tax breaks for wind -- a massive boon for Iowa -- are on the chopping block.
So, too, are historic preservation tax credits. It can be said with all confidence that these breaks propelled the rebirth of Davenport's downtown. Hotel Blackhawk -- the catalyst for downtown's rise from the ashes -- is probably still a burnt and hollow shell if not for historic preservation credits.
Credits for wind and historic preservation are important tools for Iowa. And any mention of their demise immediately gets our hackles up. It's a reality that's playing out throughout the country.
And the math isn't helping the already monumental political lift. The non-partisan Tax Policy center this past week concluded that about 30 percent of middle class households would actually experience a tax hike under the House proposal. The richest Americans would enjoy the vast majority of benefits, analysts concluded. And the Congressional Budget Office said the House bill would explode the deficit by $1.7 trillion over the next decade.
We agree that the tax code should be simplified. But it's almost comical that a party that's spent years railing against the deficit would introduce legislation that would explode it. By their own rhetoric, Republicans have weakened their position.
Any overhaul should be fair and reasonable. Punching a gaping hole in the federal budget just to hit a preconceived corporate tax rate is ridiculous. A 30 percent tax rate, for example, would concurrently achieve a long-held Republican campaign promise while not costing an arm and a leg. And anyone who espouses a belief in the free market should only support killing the wind tax credit if oil and coal also loses the heaps of benefits collected over the years. The proposals do nothing but pick winners and losers.
Republicans are under extreme pressure to score a legislative win now that they control all of government's levers. Legitimate questions about the GOP's ability to govern right grew from its failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Stark losses in state races on Tuesday hint at a backlash against President Donald Trump and his chaotic, divisive style.
There's a reason tax reform has been kicked down the road for decades. And, judging by the proposals now in Congress, there's little reason to believe this attempt will end any differently.