EVENT -- Tax Reform Now: Cutting Rates and Deficits

Event Summary

On Tuesday, April 12, the Moment of Truth (MOT) project and the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) co-hosted an event at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced Governmental Studies to focus on the urgent need for comprehensive reform of the U.S. tax code. PPI president Will Marshall got the event started and introduced the first speaker, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), who spoke of the many reasons we must tackle our fiscal problems comprehensively and in a bipartisan manner. He noted from his recent experiences on the campaign trail and what he has seen at the many local town-hall meetings he has attended that our nation’s debt and deficits “came up in every single meeting”. He emphasized that voters are ready for Washington to lead on fixing our fiscal problems, that they understand that it will require shared sacrifice, and that the time to act is now.

Following Sen. Bennet was a panel discussion between Diane Rogers of the Concord Coalition, Paul Weinsten of PPI, Alan Viard of the American Enterprise Institute, and moderator Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center on Reforming the Tax Code: The Case for the Modified Zero Plan. The panelists’ discussion focused on the tax provisions included in the final report of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Fiscal Commission). Specifically, they discussed the “Modified Zero Plan”, which called for reducing and consolidating tax rates; eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, eliminating most tax expenditures; reforming provisions for housing, health, charitable giving, and retirement; and raise $800 billion in revenue over the decade. The Modified Zero Plan’s potential bipartisan appeal in that it would drastically lower tax rates while also raising revenue was a main focus of the conversation, as was the important progress made by the Fiscal Commission on moving the tax reform debate forward.

Paul Weinstein and Marc Goldwein (CRFB’s policy director and a speaker on the event’s second panel) also released their paper on the Modified Zero Plan at the event. Less is More: The Modified Zero Plan for Tax Reform offers a more in-depth analysis of the plan, which both authors helped develop while working on the staff of the Fiscal Commission. (Click here to read the paper.)

Following the first panel were speakers Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Daniel Coats (R-IN). Sen. Wyden spoke about the tax reform legislation he and Sen. Coats recently co-sponsored and a few of its many advantages, including job creation, increased global competitiveness, and the fact that a simplified tax code would drastically reduce its significant administrative burden. Sen. Coats talked about the more wide-ranging goals of comprehensive tax reform, including simplicity, economic growth, and bipartisan appeal. He reemphasized the point that comprehensive tax reform must be part of any upcoming fiscal reform.

After a quick break for lunch, former Fiscal Commission member Dave Cote (president and CEO of Honeywell International) gave a great talk about tax policy’s essential role in increasing the United State’s global competitiveness. He was followed by the second panel of the day, which discussed possible failsafes and triggers designed to cut tax expenditures across the board in order to force action on reform. Panelists included Leonard Burman of Syracuse University, Marc Goldwein of CRFB, Joseph Minarik of the Committee for Economic Development, and moderator Derek Thompson of The Atlantic. The discussion focused on the need for tax expenditure reform and that any tax reform fail-safes should encourage action as well as ensure reasonable results if action is not taken.

Event Participants and Agenda

     Johns Hopkins University, DC Campus
     1717 Massachusetts Ave, NWWashington, DC 20008
     Lecture Hall LL7

     Tuesday, April 12, 2011

  • Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
  • Sen. Daniel Coats (R-IN)
  • Dave Cote, National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform
Panel 1: Reforming the Tax Code: The Case for the Modified Zero Plan
  • Diane Lim Rogers, Concord Coalition
  • Paul Weinstein, Johns Hopkins University
  • Alan Viard, American Enterprise Institute
  • Howard Gleckman, Tax Policy Center (Moderator)
Panel 2: Enforcing Reform: Designing Tax Expenditure Fail-safes and Triggers
  • Leonard Burman, Syracuse University
  • Marc Goldwein, Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
  • Joseph Minarik, Committee for Economic Development
  • Derek Thompson, The Atlantic (Moderator)

This event was cosponsored by The Progressive Policy Institute and the Moment of Truth project, and is being hosted by the Center for Advance Governmental Studies at The Johns Hopkins University.