Not that you're hearing about it much, but lots of Republican tax reform ideas are competing for primacy

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Thursday April 13th, 2017

And despite the way it's being reported, that's a good thing.

To hear the media report it, you'd think the story here is yet another major Republican civil war over an issue on which they can reach no consensus - yet another example of the GOP's inability to govern. Governing, of course, is defined by the media as "quick legislative victories" without regard to how well-conceived the legislation may be, or whether it's really in the best interests of the nation. As long as it's quick!

They have a long history of treating every legislative initiative - and its success or failure - in terms of how it affects the political fortunes of whatever politicians are involved with it. The bill passes and it's a "victory for Trump" or whoever. The real story should be how it affects the people of the country, not how it affects Johnny Lawmaker's career. But that's substance, and this is the media we're talking about.

So here's some good news: A lot of different factions within the GOP are tussling over the form of what we hope will be an upcoming tax overhaul. That's as opposed to the White House and/or the leadership handing something down from on high and saying, "This is it. Pass it." Because that worked great with the ObamaCare repeal, didn't it?

The Republican Party is far from perfect, but they are the party that contains much more serious people when it comes to trying to get policy right, and that's reflected in the fact that so many people want to weigh in on this all-important imperative:

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan's tax reform blueprint appears to be losing its status as the likely framework for the first major tax overhaul since 1986, with rival approaches emerging from the White House, Senate and other quarters in Congress.

Congressional aides, lobbyists and analysts say the changing focus could delay passage of a tax bill until late 2017 or 2018, potentially foiling Republican efforts to score a legislative victory for President Donald Trump by August, following last month's failed bill to repeal and replace Obamacare health insurance.

Like the healthcare bill, the House Republican tax blueprint stems from Ryan's "A Better Way" legislative agenda launched during the 2016 election campaign.

"The House can go and do what they want to do. We are going to formulate our own policies," White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told CNBC in an interview posted on the channel's website on Wednesday. "You will have a White House, Donald Trump tax plan that we are going to take down to the Hill and try and sell.

In the meantime, Senate Republicans are expected to review a 2015 tax package from former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, as a starting point for their own tax legislation.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus, a bloc of conservative lawmakers that helped derail Ryan’s healthcare bill, have also suggested that expanding the deficit to stave off adding new taxes could be acceptable.

This is a difficult issue to get right, and it should be difficult, because the existing behemoth of a tax code is a mind-bogglingly difficult problem. My preference would be something painstakingly simple - a very small number of taxes at very low rates with no exemptions or deductions - but in order to get an entire party behind the solution, you have to give everyone a chance to weigh in. The fact that Ryan is not shoving his idea down everyone's throats and refusing to listen to other ideas is a sign of good leadership, not weakness.

GDP growth for Obama's final year? A measly 1.6 percent

As we reported earlier today, Trump really wants the ObamaCare repeal-and-replacement to come before tax reform if possible - and that's for policy reasons as well as for political reasons. ObamaCare is full of taxes that didn't exist in the status quo ante ObamaCare, and presuming to reform the tax code without having decided the fate of all those taxes simply makes no sense. The logical way to go is to first get rid of all the ObamaCare taxes, then figure out what stays, what goes and what changes among the taxes that already existed independent of ObamaCare.

I hope the GOP is able to engage the general public on this issue more fully than it has done to date. The tax code is enormously important to everyone in the country, not only for how it touches them personally but also for its impact on economic growth in general. If the GOP could really get the public's attention to show them just how insane the tax code is, and how thoroughly they'd like to improve and simplify it - it would have the potential to be one of the biggest policy and political wins in the party's history.

You will of course get the usual carping about "tax cuts for the rich" and all that, but I believe the right messaging approach could even win that debate by showing people you're really not helping the poor and the middle class when you punish the rich for using their wealth productively. The first step, of course, is to develop a consensus on what to do, and they're working through that process right now. Hopefully the outcome will be a proposal worth promoting and ultimately passing. The nation has waited far too long for the opportunity to leave behind the behemoth the political class has stuck us with.

Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!