Political Capital with John Harwood

GOP/Dems "Rangel" Over "Who's Best On Taxes" In 2008

Charles Rangel

Charlie Rangel’s tax reform bill isn't likely to become law anytime soon. Yet its already an active part of the presidential campaign, as Republicans try to reclaim control of the tax issue in advance of the 2008 elections.

The house ways and means chairman proposes some big tax cuts--eliminating the alternative minimum tax for those earning less than $200,000 a year and reducing the top corporate tax rate to 30.5%. But Republicans are hammering at the increases: a 4% surtax on incomes above $200,000, taxing "carried interest” as ordinary income rates, and elimination of important tax breaks benefiting some companies.

That lengthens the list of proposals Republicans are using to try and revive the Democrats old tax and spend reputation:

--Raising cigarette taxes.
--Rolling back bush tax cuts for upper income Americans.
--Removing oil and Drug Company tax breaks.
--Raising capitol gains taxes.

In each case, Democrats say they have good reasons: to expand health care, develop alternative energy sources, cut the deficit, or make the tax code more fair.

The Mother of All Tax Bills

But Republicans need to close this gap from a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, which asked: who's better on handling taxes? The answer was worrisome for Republican strategists: 36% said Democrats, and just 27% said Republicans.

Which is why Republicans immediately demanded to know today whether Hillary Clinton supports the Rangel tax bill. So far the Clinton team's response has been silence.

UPDATE: OK, it's not silence from Team Clinton anymore, but the statement I've now received from the front-runner's spokesman Phil Singer is as close as a statement can come to silence: "Senator Clinton and Rep. Rangel share the broad goal of progressive tax reform. We welcome Rep. Rangel's leadership on this issue and will study his proposal closely."

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