US Capitol with trees

The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, D.C.

In principle, members of our editorial board believe in lower taxes to the federal government for everyone who pays them - individuals, families, businesses - because we believe Americans should keep more of the money they earn. (We also believe everyone should pay something to support the federal government; today, some 45 percent of Americans pay no federal income taxes.)

However, the tax reform debate picking up speed in Washington gives us pause for two primary reasons:

* Like the Affordable Care Act, a tax reform bill appears on its way to passage by both chambers and signature by the president with no support from one party.

The House reform bill passed 227 to 205, with all Democrats opposed. The Senate reform bill passed 51 to 49; again, all Democrats voted "no."

In our view, this whole process is too secret, too rushed and too riddled with unanswered questions - all in the name of political expediency.

For example, consider this: Only “a few hours before the vote” in the Senate was a draft of the tax bill distributed to lawmakers, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, said in a Washington Post story.

“Hey, happy holidays, everybody,” Tester said in a video posted to Twitter the night of the vote. “It’s the night we’re going to be voting on the tax bill. I just got the tax bill 25 minutes ago.”

In the video, according to the Post story, Tester held with both hands a ream of paper several inches thick, then set the pile on his desk. From the top of the 479-page stack, he selected a page with handwritten edits scrawled in the margin.

“I want you to take a look at this, folks," Tester said in the video. "This is your government at work."

No one gets a pass here - both sides of the aisle are guilty of engaging in political power plays. Tax reform is for Republicans what Obamacare was for Democrats - the spoil of a victor.

Frankly, though, Americans deserve better.

The proper way forward for Congress on tax reform, and health care, is embrace of an approach different from what Americans have witnessed since Democrats forced Obamacare through to passage seven years ago. A once-time-honored approach used effectively in Washington throughout our history to forge agreements on difficult and complex issues, including tax reform passed in the 1980s during the administration of Ronald Reagan.

It's called working together.

An attempt by one side to shove comprehensive legislation down the throats of the other side so one side "wins" and the other side "loses" ignores the realities of complicated issues and deepens an already deep political divide. Members of one party shutting out the other and drafting a bill largely behind closed doors sows seeds of frustration, mistrust and resentment.

The result is a vicious cycle in which members of today's minority party plot political revenge for the day when the pendulum swings back the other way (and it always does) and they become tomorrow's majority party.

Left in the middle, waiting for emergence of true leadership, are the rest of us.

* We aren't convinced congressional spending restraint and reform of entitlements will follow a reduction in taxes. In other words, we fear trillions of dollars in additional federal debt.

Today's federal debt is more than $20 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office projects the House tax reform plan will add $1.7 trillion to this mountain of debt within 10 years; the Senate plan, $1.4 trillion.

A future of more deficits and rising debt isn't sustainable. Fiscally speaking, debt eventually will crush the nation. At some point, the federal government must get serious about it.

The greater good suggests a need for tax reform that is acceptable to both parties in Congress, acceptable to most Americans and is followed by prudent actions to address debt.

To get there will require more from lawmakers than we have witnessed this year and in recent years.

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Load comments