In a month, if White House officials are to be believed, the Obama Administration will unveil the tax reform report of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Despite once-high expectations, it is likely to be a waste of everyone’s time.
The Board (the PERAB in Washington-speak) is hardly a bunch of economic lightweights. Chaired by ex-Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, its members include economist Marty Feldstein, GE CEO Jeff Immelt, venture capitalist John Doerr, former CEA chair Laura Tyson, and other stars of Wall Street, Main Street, academia, and labor. Its chief economist is Austan Goolsbee, a top-notch researcher who has had close ties to President Obama for years.
Yet the reform panel—technically a PERAB subcommittee—is going to produce…a mouse. From its earliest days, the group was forced to work under impossible constraints. Chief among them: Obama’s insistence that no one earning less than $250,000 should pay higher taxes. Exempting more than 95 percent of families and individuals from tax hikes of any kind essentially shut the door on any serious discussion of reform, which inevitably creates winners and, yes, losers.