There are a lot of known unknowns about the new "Gang of Six" budget proposal. But conservatives should hold back from trashing it. Why? There's a large, pro-growth tax-reform piece in the plan that would lower tax rates across the board. This is a stunning reversal of the Obama Democrats' soak-the-rich, class-warfare campaign.
The best part of the Gang of Six plan is a reduction in the top personal tax rate from 35 percent to a range of 23 percent to 29 percent. For businesses, the rate would drop in the same manner. And the corporate tax would be territorial rather than global, thereby avoiding the double tax on foreign earnings of U.S. companies. Finally, the plan would abolish the $1.7 trillion alternative minimum tax. (SET ITAL) That's huge. (END ITAL) It's another pro-growth tax reform.
In a more perfect world, the Congressional Budget Office would score the pro-growth incentives of lower marginal tax rates in terms of a tax- (SET ITAL) revenue (END ITAL) increase. That's the history stretching back to JFK, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush circa 2003.
And right now, the Gang of Six package is the first real pro-growth tax reform of all the debt-ceiling plans. It acknowledges the need for a growth element in order to solve our budget bankruptcy and limit spending, deficits and debt. It would boost the economy and broaden the base (by reforming or limiting numerous deductions). As a result, more income would be taxed at lower rates in a rising economy, throwing off a hell of a lot more revenues than we're getting today. Rising revenues from lower tax rates are a (SET ITAL) good (END ITAL) thing.
Now, there are glitches in this plan that cannot be overlooked. The biggest is the harsher treatment of capital gains. In a CNBC interview on Tuesday, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told me that the investment tax rate would rise to 20 percent from 15 percent. This is a black mark. It's anti-growth. Coburn, however, also told me that the tax treatment of IRAs and 401(k)s would not change in this plan. That's good.
Additional problems, however, are raised by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. He notes first of all that the Gang of Six plan claims to increase revenues by $1.2 trillion relative to a "plausible baseline." He also notes that the plan claims to provide $1.5 trillion in tax relief relative to the CBO March baseline. That's important. But Ryan then reminds us that the CBO baseline assumes the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which would increase revenues by a static $3.5 trillion.
So Ryan concludes that there's a $2 trillion revenue increase. And he notes that this number could jump by another $800 billion from Obamacare taxes, which would increase revenues by $2.8 trillion.