There is no doubt that Americans want tax reform. Citizens want to keep more of their paychecks and businesses want to lower their operating costs. Both want to live in a world where they are able to do better for themselves.
There is also no doubt that Americans want better out of their elected representatives. What we want, and should demand, is that they work together in a bipartisan manner to create a better future for all. Partisan legislation should not be accepted from either side of the aisle, especially with issues as big as tax reform.
With this bill, Republicans focused on economic expansion.
Democrats wanted more focus on income inequality.
Together they could have addressed both. They didn’t.
The reason for that is simple: Politicians in Congress are completely unwilling to work together outside of their parties. It’s a game, and both sides play it (the roles just change depending on who is in power). The game for those in power is, “I only win if you lose.” The game for those not in power is, “I will resist all you do until I regain power.”
This is a game played by choice. Politicians could choose a different game. They don’t.
There has been plenty of coverage and commentary on the nuts and bolts of the tax plan (corporate rate, individual rates, pass-through rate, estate tax, individual healthcare mandate, etc), but I want to look at this issue from a different perspective: not what is in the final bill, but what the process would have looked like if approached in a bipartisan manner. If they had played a different game, so to speak. Evidence shows that will not happen with the current officials in office today, so instead let’s reset the teams and imagine a House of Representatives where there are 217 Republicans, 217 Democrats and 1 Independent (that would be me).
One Independent may not seem like much, but when neither party has an outright majority the game completely changes.
Here is how the process would have been different if I was the Independent swing vote on Tax Reform:
Establish the Mission - The first thing that I would have done at that at the beginning of this legislative session would be to sit down with the Republican and Democrat party leadership and said, “The People sent us to Washington to work on important issues, one of those is tax reform. You know that neither of your parties has enough votes to pass a bill through the House on its own. Which means nothing will get passed without me and my vote. And nothing gets my vote unless it’s done with bipartisan support. That means we either work together and find areas of common ground where we can compromise, or you go back to your district and explain to the voters why you can’t do the job they sent you to do. If one of your parties doesn’t want to participate in this, I’m sure that the other would happily do so without you. So I suggest that it’s your best interest, and in the best interest of our constituents, that we all work together. We will all get some items in the bill we want, and will have to find room to compromise on the items that we don't, but together we can create a bill that puts money back in peoples pockets, grows the economy and addresses income inequality. Now, let’s get to work and pass a great bill!”
Agree on the desired outcomes - The next steps I would have done is to gain high-level agreement on the outcomes we want to create. Things like:
- Ease the tax burden on the middle class and small businesses
- Create economic incentives that will stimulate the economy and create jobs
- Shrink the income inequality gap
- Protect important programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security
- Be deficit neutral to positive, but not add to the national debt
This will be the North Star to guide you during the process. The point of this exercise is not to create the policy specifics, only the agreed upon goals. When things get tense later, you will need to be able to ask, “Is this in alignment with the outcomes which we agreed that we wanted to create?”
Establish the ground rules - Congress has its official rules of conduct, of course, but I would also establish the ground rules for how we will agree to engage during the effort.
- Agree to abide by regular order, with full use of committees, public hearings, debates, markups and amendments.
- Agree upon what will constitute the basis of facts by which we will make decisions from, such as an independent non-partisan analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation
- Agree that all parties will be well represented in working teams
- Agree that adhering to the process and getting this done right for the people is better than rushing to get it done quickly for personal political gain
- Agree to respect and trust one another, and to act in a respectable and trustworthy manner in return
Imagine the quality of our Tax Reform bill if they had used that process! I guarantee you that citizens would feel more confident that our legislative process is actually working for them, and that the outcomes created would be better for all.
Now, image that same process being used to address healthcare, infrastructure, education, veterans needs, the national debt, immigration and national security. It’s a totally different game, right? One played out of purpose, not fear. One that gets better results!
It’s time to change the game. It’s time to elect an Independent.