Speaker Ryan, think big on corporate tax reform

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Published by: Herman Cain on Sunday September 17th, 2017

This is no time to be timid.

I’ve always liked Paul Ryan and I still do. Way before he was Speaker of the House, he was one of the House’s leading thinkers on how to deal with federal spending and taxation so we could seriously address debt and the growth of government.

It’s hard to believe now, with all the disenchantment conservatives feel over the failures of the Republican House majority (though the Republican Senate has been far worse), but at one time conservatives were very excited by the prospect of Paul Ryan on the 2012 presidential ticket.

He is a good man with a difficult job to do in leading the House, and I suppose we can debate whether he’s doing that job as well as he could. But I’ve always thought his policy instincts were good, and I’m convinced that if he had his way we would implement far better policies than the ones we have today.

That’s why I was a little disappointed by his comment last week about President Trump’s corporate tax reform proposals. As you know, the United States has the world’s highest corporate tax rate at 35 percent, and the president wants to cut that all the way down to 15 percent. This would unleash economic growth in a way few policy changes have been able to achieve in generations.

Speaker Ryan doesn’t dispute that the president’s proposal is a good one, and says that on substance he wants to get the corporate tax rate as low as possible. But he also seems concerned about “making the numbers work.” Whether that refers to budget numbers or votes in Congress, Ryan seems to believe “the numbers” may dictate that we shoot for a more modest goal like 22 percent, which is the global average. And he implies that the president’s proposal, while sound policy, is unrealistic and too hard to achieve.

There I have a problem with the Speaker of the House, and it reminds me of a story I’ve told you several times. When I was running for president in 2011, my 9-9-9 tax plan came up in a debate. Former Senator Rick Santorum told everyone that while the plan was “cutesy” (whatever that was supposed to mean), it didn’t matter because “in Washington we need to propose things that can pass.”

This, I replied, was exactly the problem with Washington. No one proposes things that actually solve problems. They just propose things that “can pass.”

Now look, I get it, no policy can be implemented unless it first passes. But when you want to do something big, you have to start by taking a bold position. If you have to negotiate back from that position, that’s one thing. But you’re better off negotiating back from a bold position than from a timid one.

When Speaker Ryan says right off the bat that maybe we can only get the corporate tax rate down to 22 percent, what do you think that says to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi? It says that they should hold firm against any proposal to cut the corporate tax rate, because the House Speaker is already backing down from the president’s far more ambitious plan – without the Democrats even having had to make a counter yet.

That makes no sense. A corporate tax rate of 15 percent would be good policy, which is why President Trump is right to propose it. Republican leaders should take a strong stand in favor of that position, and let Democrats defend – if they must – their preference for higher corporate taxes in an age when we’ve failed to achieve 3.0 percent growth in any year since the Bush Administration. 

Democrats don’t care about that, of course. They just want tax rates as high as they can be. So Republicans are going to have to make the case for lower rates and explain the benefits to the public. It’s tough negotiating, but’s even tougher when you concede ground right off the bat – before you need to.

Maybe President Trump should give Speaker Ryan a copy of The Art of the Deal. He seems a little rusty.

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