A staff member places the Presidential Seal on the podium prior to U.S. President Donald Trump speaking about the passage of tax reform legislation on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., December 20, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
After a year of ups and downs, 2017 is concluding on an extremely positive note for the nation. Passage of the tax reform bill is an important and meaningful success — for a president who promised tax reform since before he was elected, for leaders in Congress who needed to show they can deliver a legislative win, and for the American people, who desperately needed relief from their own federal government’s insatiable desire for more and more revenue.
As the debate unfolded, two things were abundantly clear.
One is that Republicans in Congress were willing to engage in a real debate about the specific elements of tax reform. We saw principled conservatives discussing difficult subjects like the best level for the child care tax credit; the opportunity costs of a 20 percent vs. 21 percent corporate rate; how best to ensure that pass-through businesses were not disadvantaged; and how to make the system both fairer and simpler to navigate. This is commendable, and it is how Congress is truly supposed to work. At the same time, it was also clear that what the media reported was neither accurate nor objective. This was quite unfortunate, if not unsurprising.
In attempting to cut through all the media wailing, there are three things worth highlighting in the context not just of this tax debate, but of the first year of the Trump Administration. Collectively, they point to encouraging signs for the next three years, if we can maintain the momentum.
First: Love him or hate him, President Donald Trump is following through on his campaign promises. We’ve seen massive regulatory rollbacks, a return of policy-making authority to the states, a tremendous set of conservative judicial appointments, and now 2017 culminates with the passage of a comprehensive reform of our nation’s frightfully unwieldy tax code. Regardless of how you feel about his social media habits or other quirks, President Trump has attacked the role of Chief Executive with the vigor we needed. And despite a barrage of misinformation from the Left, the reform package will benefit nearly all Americans. Is it a perfect bill? No. But we would be wise to never let perfect become the enemy of the good. And this bill is very good.
Second: Of all the elements in the final package, it should not be overlooked that the Obamacare individual mandate — and with it, the underlying structure of Obamacare itself — is gone. While not the full repeal conservatives had been seeking, the repeal of the mandate will allow millions of Americans to say no to overpriced coverage that doesn’t meet their needs, without fear of being slapped with a penalty from the government. We should begin to see better (and more affordable) options entering the insurance market, and states should lead the way in providing more robust options for consumers that promote choice and flexibility.
Third: As conservatives and limited-government advocates, we should acknowledge that this tax reform proposal will in fact add to the debt. That’s not a fact to be swept under the rug. Rather, this should open up the long-overdue discussion about reigning in the size of our federal government to a level commensurate with our revenues. This will not happen overnight, and it will require difficult conversations about our priorities, about reforming our “entitlement” systems, and about the proper role of the federal government in our daily lives. For far too long we have allowed bureaucrats in D.C. to spend like drunken sailors with a stolen credit card. This can’t continue — our grandchildren (and their grandchildren) will be left with a far less prosperous America if we do not get our spending back to levels within our means.
While certainly not everything about the course of this year has been pleasant to navigate, and while there have been distractions a-plenty both at home and abroad, we should take a moment this holiday season to appreciate the fact that there is much to celebrate. Here’s to hoping that in 2018 we keep the pressure on Congress and President Trump to continue the course change that is making Amer— no, I can’t say it…
Happy New Year!
Dr. Robert McClure provides expert perspective on current issues facing our nation and his home state of Florida, the third-largest state in the nation and a policy bellwether for the country. Recently named one of the Most Influential People in Florida Politics, Dr. McClure serves as the President and CEO of The James Madison Institute, Florida’s premier free-market think tank. He is a frequent commentator on television and talk radio programs and has lectured nationally on diverse policy issues. Dr. McClure has been published numerous times at both the state and national level on topics including property rights, tax policy, health care, and education reform. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.