Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) decision to withdraw his bid for the Republican presidential nomination means voters have missed the best chance to hear a serious debate on tax policy between his party’s White House nominees. House.
Unlike his opponents, Scott campaigned on a thoughtful, relatively detailed agenda that combined taxes with his conservative social and economic views. You might not agree with all of this. But at least you knew where Scott stood, which can’t be said for his opponents.
I wish I could show you his design, but Scott took down his website content when he suspended his campaign. But to get the point across, here’s one analysis by the Committee on a Responsible Fdederal Budget (CRFB), an interview Scott did on CNBC and one nice summary of his plan by Kyle Pomerleau of the American Enterprise Institute.
· To make all the personal income tax provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which are due to expire at the end of 2025.
· Removal of estate and gift tax.
· Permanent license businesses to immediately write off the cost of the equipment and research, and faster building depreciation.
· Allow parents to claim it child tax credit (CTC) for unborn babies and refund the adoption tax credit.
· Expand his signature Zones of Opportunitywhich provided additional capital gains tax breaks on investments in designated communities.
Make no mistake, while Scott was pretty specific on taxes, his overall fiscal agenda left a lot of holes to fill.
For example, he insisted that his plan would reduce the federal deficit. But it didn’t add up. The CRFB estimated that it would add more than $3 trillion to the national debt over a decade, even with the proposed (and unrealistic) across-the-board cuts in non-defense, non-Social Security and Medicare spending. He would never say what he would do about the looming insolvencies of Social Security and Medicare; Part A.
Scott claimed it would close the budget gap because cutting taxes would raise revenue and reduce the deficit. But this idea is not supported by evidence and has been rejected by almost all economists.
Especially Vs. Communities
Despite these shortcomings, his tax plan was specific enough that independent analysts (and voters) could make informed judgments about its virtues and flaws. Almost every bullet was accompanied by a reference to an actual bill in Congress. And while Scott left out some key details (about international taxation, for example), you knew where he stood on revenue matters.
You can’t say that about his former GOP rivals. While Ron DeSantis had an aggressive tax-cutting agenda as Florida governor, is almost silent about what he would do on fiscal policy as president. Former Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley was somewhat more forthcoming, but her agenda still includes huge gaps. For example, he promises to lower tax rates for working families, but never says for whom or by how much. And it is silent on extending the TCJA.
Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy has a plan but he is internally inconsistent, swinging wildly between pledging never to raise taxes, promising to raise the property tax, and then denying he ever made such a promise.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has said little about his tax or fiscal policies, other than promising to work with Democrats on deficit reduction.
The Trump factor
And Donald Trump? These days, his stump speeches focus on how he would punish political opponents in a second term. Even his own campaign website it is more a retrospective of his first term than a political agenda for a second. He never even says he will extend the 2017 TCJA, perhaps his greatest legislative achievement.
The only real revenue proposal Trump has made is to impose a 10 percent duty on almost all imported products. But he said nothing about how such a levy would work or what it would do to mitigate the inevitable price increases it would cause for American consumers.
As long as Trump continues to dominate the GOP primary race, the details of fiscal policy will get little attention. He won’t talk about it. And his remaining challengers will continue to focus on attacking each other in a desperate bid to be the last viable alternative when primary voters start heading to the polls or the Commons in late January.
Still, voters deserve a debate on tax policy, especially since the expiration of individual provisions of the TCJA in 2025 will force important decisions about the future of the revenue code soon after the next president is inaugurated. The collapse of Scott’s campaign leaves voters with a huge information gap, at least until the general election.