Some interesting mini-lessons in politics from Sen. Tim Kaine’s chat with Roanoke business and civic leaders today:
Take tax reform. After next week’s likely vote on Internet sales taxes and this month’s probable Senate vote on immigration, it’s the next big one on the agenda, Kaine thinks.
The problem is with “tax expenditures” – which Kaine is quick to say is an inside-the-Beltway euphemism for loopholes.
To be precise, as he notes, “there’s a constituency for every one of them.”
Some have outlived their usefulness. Kaine believes the tax breaks oil companies get aren’t really necessary to encourage domestic production anymore. They are looph… oops, tax expenditures that he’d like to see go.
But the politics of other loopholes are even tougher, especially for individual taxpayers. After all, loopholes for them total $1.1 trillion, which is not too far short of the $1.3 trillion we individual taxpayers actually hand over to Uncle Sam.
The emerging answer, which Kaine backs, is some kind of limit on individuals’ deductions. That could be a flat dollar figure for each taxpayer or a percentage of a taxpayer’s annual income. A small change that affects — and may not even hurt — most people is easier to swing than big changes that affect even fairly small groups.
Later, strolling through downtown Roanoke, Kaine said he thinks Congress can have a discussion about such caps without rekindling the acrimony sparked during the debate about ending the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthiest.
There, the lesson is the one he thinks more and more in the Senate are seeing: give a little to get a little.
That’s why he thinks that after 15 years of debating the issue, he’s betting that the Senate is going to pass legislation to facilitate collecting sales tax on Internet transactions and why he puts the odds of Senate passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill at 70 to 75 percent.