From Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, commenting on his House colleague Dave Camp’s tax reform bill:
I think we will not be able to finish the job, regretfully. I don’t see how we can.
And….that’s a wrap, folks. Tax reform is officially a dead letter before poor old Dave Camp even had a chance to unveil his plan.
Naturally, McConnell blames this sad state of affairs on Democrats, because what else would he do? But I think everyone understands the real truth here: Republicans have no stomach for debating tax reform in an election year. Why? For the usual reason: everyone loves lower rates, but no one has the guts to so much as discuss the tax breaks they’d close to make up for the lower rates. Paul Ryan refuses to do this on an annual basis when he releases his latest budget roadmap. Mitt Romney famously tap danced around the subject for months in 2012. No one wanted to open this can of worms during either the fiscal cliff negotiations or any of the sequester standoffs.
Nothing has changed since then. If you talk about the mortgage interest deduction, you piss off millions of homeowners. If you talk about the carried interest loophole, you piss off billions of dollars worth of hedge fund managers. If you talk about the charitable deduction, every church in America will go ballistic. If you talk about 401(k)s, you piss off old people. If you talk about the exclusion of healthcare benefits from taxation, you piss off every middle-class worker in America. If you talk about capital gains rates, you might as well just kiss off your membership in the conservative movement.
“Broadening the base” sounds great when you use bloodless terms like “broadening the base.” But when you translate that into actual tax deductions you want to get rid of, it doesn’t sound so great at all. Mitch McConnell knows this perfectly well, and he wants this particular Pandora’s Box to stay well and truly sealed for at least the next eight months. His mama didn’t raise no fools.