Posted Monday, April 4, 2011, at 4:45 PM
I talked briefly with Sen. Ron Wyden today as he announced that Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., would be the Republican co-sponsor of a bipartisan tax reform bill that would flatten the corporate tax code, eliminate loopholes, eliminate the AMT, and shrink the number of income tax brackets to three. Wyden said that he'd called Coats after winning his comeback bid last year, asked him why he'd wanted to come back, and found that the Republican had campaign on tax reform -- he was a natural partner on this. In our interview, Wyden repeatedly used the phrase "red, white, and blue jobs," a new-ish piece of rhetoric that, I think, has become more attractive in the wake of anger at reports on corporate tax loopholes.
SLATE: I have been hearing for several months now that there is no chance for this legislation until 2013 or so. Why introduce it now?
WYDEN: Let's start with the tax reform proverb -- I attribute it to Bill Bradley, I think this was his -- that tax reform is always, repeat, always , totally and completely impossible until 15 minutes before it comes together. Clearly, it has now been put on the table by the president, put on the table by the deficit commission -- essentially in the form I started with with Sen. Gregg -- and it's been put out there by the chairman of Ways and Means. Now it's bipartisan. I think we're hitting at exactly right time.
SLATE: During the rollout of the GOP budget?
WYDEN: This is a week that will be, A, partisan, and B, all about cutting. And the last time the deficit commission was up here -- when Bowles and Simpson were here -- I got them to say you can't cut your way out of this problem, you have to grow your way out. If people are focusing on growth, this gives us the first real bipartisan opening to talk about something with the potential to create red, white and blue jobs. I'm going to keep on repeating that number that came out of the 1986 Reagan reform -- 6.3 million non-farm jobs.
SLATE: Last month the New York Times reported that GE paid no taxes in 2010; that was something that I think really drew attention to the flaws with the current code, and the need, maybe, for repatriation.
That story has got huge legs. Clearly, if you're unhappy with what GE could do, we roll that back in respect to changes in deferral. We respond directly to that with our changes in the code and with repatriation. This is all designed to make it worth these companies' while to create red, white, and blue jobs here.