By Agence France-Presse
President Donald Trump hit the road to sell reform of America’s “self-destructive” tax code Wednesday, a major campaign pledge that remains short on detail and a long way from becoming law.
Trump visited Springfield, Missouri, hoping to pull voters and lawmakers behind what described as a “once in a generation” opportunity to remake the tax code.
Advocating a 15 percent corporate tax rate, and a slew of other reforms, Trump insisted “our self-destructive tax code cost millions of jobs, trillions of dollars, and billions of hours spent on compliance and paper work.”
Trump has argued that ambitious reform of the tax code is needed to juice the economy further, and is counting on the Republican-controlled Congress to make that ambition reality.
The economy has been bright spot for Trump’s troubled presidency, with unemployment rates falling and growth rates reaching their fastest clip in over two years.
Shortly before Marine One lifted off from the South Lawn of the White House, news came that economic growth had reached Trump’s target of three percent in the second quarter.
“I happen to be one that thinks we can go much higher than three percent,” Trump said, welcoming the news.
Trump argued that at 26,000 pages the US tax code was out of control, with complex deductions and nominal rates that made the United States uncompetitive.
“It disadvantages ordinary Americans who don’t have an army of accountants, while benefiting deep-pocket special interests,” he said.
“China and some others that are highly competitive and really doing very well against us,” he added. “They are taking us, frankly, to the cleaners.”
But he offered little detail of what he wants to change.
It was not clear, for example, whether the goal for 15 percent corporate tax rate was workable or would aim to reduce the nominal rate — currently 39 percent — or the actual rate that company’s pay, which is closer to 19 percent.
The White House’s stated goal is to adopt tax reform by the end of the year, but that’s a tall task both technically and politically.
The US tax code has not been modified significantly since 1986, despite numerous efforts.
With most of his legislative agenda stalled and political pressure mounting, Trump took aim at Republican lawmakers, telling them to get tax reform done.
“I don’t want to be disappointed by Congress. Do you understand me? Do you understand?” he said. “I think Congress is going to make a comeback. I hope so. I tell you what, the United States is counting on it.”
Trump also trained fire at Democrats, crediting them with scuppering his efforts to undo Barack Obama’s health care reforms.
“The Dems are looking to obstruct tax cuts and tax reform just like they obstructed so many other things, including administration appointments and health care,” he said.
Missouri’s democratic senator Claire McCaskill, who faces a reelection fight in 2018, was singled out for the Trump treatment.
“She must do this for you, and if she doesn’t do it for you, you have to vote. Her. Out. Of. Office,” he said.
Trump’s problems may however be closer to home. Republicans control both chambers of Congress, but there is hardly a consensus on tax reform, and talks on the issue is set to be arduous.
Trump may ultimately be forced to abandon broad reform in favor of more modest, and temporary, tax relief.
Even then he faces opposition from fiscal hawks inside the Republican party, who insist that any cuts must be paid for and not add to the roughly $350 billion deficit.
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