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KRAUTHAMMER: A modest Republican agenda for 2013

  • This artwork by William Brown relates to the President Obama and Congress about to attempt tax reform.

The conventional wisdom evolves. Yesterday, Washington was merely broken, gridlocked, dysfunctional. The passive voice spread the blame evenly. Today it's agreed that Republican obstructionism is the root of all evil — GOP resistance having now escalated to nihilism and indeed sabotage.

Sabotage carries a fine whiff of extralegal, anti-constitutional vandalism. This from media mandarins who barely bat an eyelash when President Barack Obama unilaterally suspends parts of his own health care law — just as he unilaterally stopped enforcing current immigration laws for 1.7 million young illegal immigrants, thereby enacting by executive order legislation that had failed in Congress. So much for faithfully executing the laws (Article II).

The new CW knowingly deplores the 113th Congress for having passed the fewest pieces of legislation in at least four decades. Why, they were sneering, it couldn't even pass the farm bill, the essence of bipartisanship for oh so many years. Which is the perfect example of the fatuousness of measuring legislative success by volume, as if every new law represents an advance of civilization. The farm bill is the quintessence of congressional logrolling, trade-offs and kickbacks — in which the public interest is systematically trumped by some moneyed and entrenched special interest. Its death (lamentably temporary — it was partly resurrected on Thursday) was well-deserved.

Opposition to Obama's entitlement-state agenda — beginning with Obamacare, long before it began falling apart before our eyes — should be a source of pride for Republicans. Nevertheless, they shouldn't stop there. They should advance a reform agenda of their own.

The major thrust should be tax reform. The time could not be more ripe. The public is understandably agitated by an IRS scandal that showed not just the agency's usual arrogance and highhandedness but also its talent for waste, abuse, corruption and an overt favoritism that even Obama called outrageous.

Support for tax reform is already bipartisan. Its chief advocates are Democrat Max Baucus and Republican Dave Camp, respectively Senate and House chairmen of the tax-writing committees. Their objective is the replication of President Ronald Reagan's 1986 bipartisan tax-reform triumph: closing loopholes and using that revenue to lower rates across the board, which helped propel two decades of near-uninterrupted economic growth.

Tax reform is the ultimate win-win. It levels the playing field by removing the advantage of lawyered, lobbied interests. It eliminates myriad distortions in capital allocation and lowers marginal rates — both of which spur economic growth. And it simplifies the code, thereby reducing the arbitrary and unaccountable discretion of IRS bureaucrats.

The House Republicans are preparing a 25 percent cut in the IRS budget. This is silly and small. It will change nothing. Radical simplification of the tax code will change everything.

Second, take a clear position on immigration reform. "Comprehensive" or piecemeal matters not. What matters is to stick to the essential principle: legalization in return for real border control — so that this is the last amnesty we will have to grant.

Any law containing both deserves support. The current Senate bill does not. Setting soft goals for border enforcement is an invitation to this and future administrations to fudge and fake.


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