The voices of Tax Policy Center's researchers and staff
Sometimes, the strangeness on Capitol Hill takes your breath away.
Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced three bills as soon as the new Congress was sworn in this week. The first would abolish the entire tax code and replace it with…something else.
The other two would amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget. One specifically bars Congress from spending any more than it collects in revenue. Regrettably, Rep. Goodlatte did not explain exactly how he’d pay for government without a tax code. Nor did he describe what revenue collection method would replace the existing system.
Rather, he seems to see repeal as something of a forcing mechanism. His logic: If Congress has a deadline after which there are no taxes (his would be 2019), it will have to replace the current code within that window. And we all know how well Congress does with deadlines.
What is truly remarkable about this is that Goodlatte is no back-bencher. He is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and thus a relatively important person on the congressional pantheon. The House has passed versions of his tax code repeal and his balanced budget amendment in the past.
This fiscal foolishness is a variation of the repeal-and-replace cry against the Affordable Care Act. There too, Goodlatte and colleagues have never quite gotten past repeal. For four years, we have been fruitlessly awaiting their replacement plan.
This sort of legislation is pernicious because it makes it easy for lawmakers to take meaningless votes to “balance the budget” or “abolish the tax code” or “abolish Obamacare” without ever actually doing anything. They never have to stand up and support real spending cuts. They never have to identify what they would tax or how they would pay for government. Instead, they can blissfully replace the realities of governing with low-rent symbolism and cut-rate rhetoric.
Rep. Goodlatte is not getting the new Congress off to a great start.
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