During World War I, Will Rogers said the strategy of fighting German U-boats would be unnecessary if you simply boiled the Atlantic Ocean.
When asked how he proposed to do that, Rogers shrugged and exclaimed, “I’ve solved the problem; the details I’ll leave to others.”
Details are also apparently in short supply with regard to how the crop of 2008 presidential candidates would attack the out-of-control entitlement triad known as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But more importantly, they also are rather thin on concrete strategies to reform the tax code or the alternative minimum tax.
Last week, I took former Senator John Edwards to task for what I considered a naïve plan to have the Internal Revenue Service calculate the tax bills of roughly 50 million Americans, thereby bypassing paid tax preparers.
Undaunted, the Democratic hopeful more recently proposed that he would cut the marriage-tax penalty for up to 3 million families and expand the child care credit. In a sound bite on CNN, that sounds good. But to pay for it, Edwards yawningly relied on the shopworn Democratic pledge of repealing tax breaks for families earning over $200,000.
Or to put it another way, “taxing the rich.”
I’ll assume we’ll start with him.
But I digress.
Meanwhile, frontrunners Sen. Hillary Clinton D-N.Y., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., have basically been MIA regarding any meaningful positions on tax reform, though each have had mixed voting records in the past on issues such as deductions on college tuition, the marriage penalty and capital gains reductions.
Apparently, describing the AMT as “terrible,” was as far into reform of that front-burner issue as Obama deigned to go.
However, things aren’t much farther along among GOP contenders.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, whose campaign is teetering more than a Flying Wallenda after happy hour, said he would literally tear apart the Tax Code and shift to a flat tax system that places all taxpayers in the 15 percent bracket. He probably won’t be around much longer to have to explain that grandiose plan.
Ditto for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose strategy to “cut taxes and reform the Tax Code,” is as deep as he is willing or able to get at this juncture.
As governor of Massachusetts, Republican Mitt Romney pledged to short-circuit state tax increases, and, as a candidate for president, Romney proposed eliminating federal taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains for, you guessed it, middle-income Americans.
In the not-too-distant future, I’ll assume those who harbor ambitions to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. will have to be somewhat more specific than Will Rogers.
Because as amusing as the image would be, I’m afraid that simply boiling the Tax Code simply will not work.
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