Jeb Bush Releases a Tax Meditation


Well, now, I guess I’m confused. Nothing new there, I suppose. Yesterday Jeb Bush outlined his tax reform proposal and promised more details to follow: “On Wednesday I am unveiling the plan that, as president, I will submit to Congress and sign into law.” Today is Wednesday, so I hopped over to his website and found a document that said the same thing: “On Wednesday I am unveiling the plan that, as president, I will submit to Congress and sign into law.” Does that refer to the document currently on the site? Is that the plan? Or is there a real plan to follow?

I dunno. But I’m amused by Jeb’s whatever-it-is. Apparently he’s learned a couple of lessons from the last presidential cycle. First, don’t provide enough information to allow busybodies to actually score your plan. So, for example, highlight your bold plan to reduce the number of tax brackets, but don’t explain what income levels they apply to. Score that, Tax Policy Center!

Second, you should describe your reduced tax rates in loving detail, but then suddenly turn coy when it comes to all those deductions and loopholes you plan to close in order to make up for it. This means that TPC can’t analyze the actual impact of your plan. They can make a case that Bush’s plan is mathematically impossible, but it’s a fairly arcane argument and no one will care.

By the way, that’s about it. As far as individual income taxes go, that’s Bush’s plan. Reduce rates, reduce the number of brackets, and cap deductions in some vague way. It doesn’t seem like enough to supercharge the American economy, does it? But wait! There’s also this:

The plan nearly doubles the standard deduction now taken by roughly two-thirds of all filers. It eliminates the marriage penalty, expands the Earned Income Tax Credit, ends the death tax, retires the Alternative Minimum Tax and ends the employee’s share of the Social Security tax on earnings for workers older than 67.

This implies that the document I’m reading isn’t the plan. The plan is yet to come. And perhaps it will be rich with detail. Alternatively, Team Jeb’s communications team is being a little dodgy with verb tenses here. I can’t tell. Is it a secret plan? I will let you know if something further emanates from Jeb’s headquarters.