This week, GOP leaders named their six appointees to the newly-minted fiscal “super committee.” A cursory look at their “not-so-super” resumes will leave the majority of Americans who want to see tax rates on the wealthy raised less than enthused. Indeed, all six members signed anti-tax activist Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes under any circumstances.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R), who oversaw the tripling of the U.S. deficit as President George W. Bush’s OMB director, actually ran on the idea that “any tax increase would hurt the fragile economy” However, Portman indicated on Monday that he’d be open to raising revenue by “getting rid of tax ‘preferences’” and “stuff that doesn’t make sense”:
Portman said tax increases, particularly while the economy is ailing, should not be part of the deficit fix, but he did not oppose raising revenue by getting rid of tax “preferences,” including certain loopholes, credits, deductions and exclusions. Some conservatives see eliminating them as backdoor tax hikes.
Calling himself “a hawk on tax reform,” Portman said the supercommittee has an opportunity to reform the tax code, “get rid of the stuff that doesn’t make sense and lower the rates.”
“Tax reform ought to be done,” he said. “It will generate more revenue.”
Indeed, there is more than $1 trillion in wasteful “preferences” hidden in the federal tax code which, if cut, is far less harmful to the economy than gouging the social safety net. Closing frivolous or unnecessary loopholes for the oil and gas industry, for hedge fund managers, for corporate meals and entertainment, for corporate jets, for vacation homes and yachts, and for horse breeders could save taxpayers billions. In another positive move, Portman also signaled again that defense cuts “need to be on the table.”
Whether he stays open to closing loopholes during negotiations, however, remains to be seen, since anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist is effectively dictating to Republicans that they cannot close a single tax loophole, even if it it would entice Democrats into agreeing to much larger spending cuts. Indeed, after learning of Portman and the five others’ appointments, Norquist said “your wallet is safe.”