Apr 152017

Wash. D.C. The new York Times

As Congress and the Trump Administration turn their sights on overhauling the tax code, it’s a good time to think about the great three dimensional brain twister of the 1980’s, the Rubik’s Cube. That’s partly because the first and last time there was a comprehensive rewrite of the tax code, it was 1986. But there is more than that. What makes trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube so exasperating is that every rotation you make to align the colors on one side messes up something on one of the other sides. Nothing moves in isolation: everything affects everything else, and rarely for the better

The 1986 tax reform took two years. Despite bipartisan backing from the Reagan administration and congressional Democrats, it had many false starts and reversals in its voyage to becoming law. Tax reform should  not take so long. “There are thousands of moving pieces to tax reform,” said Jeffrey Birnbaum, an author of a book about the passage of that legislation. “Showdown at Gucci Gulch,” and now a public affairs strategist at BGR Group. “Every entity and interest you can think of has a stake, and there are inevitably winners and losers. And if you’re a loser, you know it.”

Add in a more polarized political environment, an administration that has been light on policy expertise, and a Republican congressional contingent that hasn’t shown much ability to pass complex tax reform legislation in more than a decade, and the puzzle looks all the more complicated. Congress and the Trump Administration will solve tax reform only by navigating difficult trade offs. Think of these trade offs as the six sides of a Rubki’s cube, each of which needs to match up perfectly–but each of which can foul up the others.


  •  04/15

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