Republicans are trying to sell their tax bill based on what can be described as the values of simplification. If you listen to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, you’d think they’re asking Americans to sacrifice provisions in the tax code that might benefit some of us, for the collective benefit of a simpler tax code that will benefit all of us—lower rates, simpler and quicker filing, and a system so simple that the well-off would not be able to use complex strategies to avoid paying their share.
Unfortunately, even a cursory look at the Republican tax bills reveals that instead of fulfilling the values of simplification, it would simply use simplification as a guise to restructure the tax code to favor the most well-off earners and corporations at the expense of middle-class America and the working poor.
To have the moral authority to go to the general public with a call for sacrifice in the name of simplification, an administration needs to be able to say, “We had no choice.” It must be able to argue convincingly that it asked those who were most well-off to do their part—or at least ensured not one additional penny went to the top 1 percent which has taken a dramatic share of income gains over recent decades—but that it was still not enough. It has to argue that it could not offer the lower rates and other benefits of simplification unless everyone was willing to give up even compelling tax preferences—that it had no choice.