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Jeb Bush Reveals Proposal To Rewrite Nation's Tax Code


While Cruz and Trump took on the Iran deal, Jeb Bush took on the nation's tax code. He unveiled a proposal today to rewrite it. His plan calls for deep cuts in both personal and corporate taxes. It would also limit or do away with many popular tax deductions. NPR's Scott Horsley has the details.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Jeb Bush outlined his tax plan on the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, then elaborated during a visit to a manufacturing plant in North Carolina. By cutting tax rates for both individuals and companies, the former Florida governor hopes to spark what he calls an explosion of economic growth.


JEB BUSH: A radical change to our tax code like this will mean so much for so many Americans. It will lead to prosperity that everyone will share in.

HORSLEY: Bush wants to cut the top tax rate on corporations from 35 to 20 percent while trimming the top individual tax rate from nearly 40 percent to 28 percent. Some 15 million more lower-income Americans would be spared paying income taxes altogether. And Bush tells CNBC, thanks to a large standard deduction, more than 30 million would no longer need to itemize.


BUSH: When you see the lower rates, this - that's the trade-off - simplicity.

HORSLEY: Charitable contributions would still be fully deductible under Bush's plan, but most other deductions would be capped at 2 percent of a taxpayer's income. Bush also wants to eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes. Former Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore notes that's a relatively painless move for a GOP politician from Florida, which has no state income tax.

STEPHEN MOORE: You're going to see blue-state Democrats howl and protest over this, whereas the red states are probably going to find this to be quite except.

HORSLEY: Bush's plan strikes a populist note by ending a tax break for hedge fund managers, but Democrats were quick to blast the proposal as a giveaway to the rich that would explode the federal deficit, much as George W. Bush's tax cuts did early in the last decade. Roberton Williams of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says it's too early to predict the fiscal effects of Jeb Bush's proposal, but he says tax cuts of this magnitude would leave a deep hole in federal coffers that would be difficult to fill.

ROBERTON WILLIAMS: Historically, we've found that when tax rates are cut, there may be growth in the economy but not enough growth to replace the lost revenue. Repeated studies trying to examine do tax cuts pay for themselves have shown the answer's no.

HORSLEY: Still, Williams says what strikes him most about the Bush tax plan is just how mainstream and ordinary it is.

WILLIAMS: There's nothing about this plan that says, oh, wow; has he gone off the reservation with this one? This is much more like a Mitt Romney plan than the plans proposed by other candidates this year.

HORSLEY: In contrast, Mike Huckabee wants to replace the income tax with a national sales tax, while Rand Paul and Ben Carson have both proposed income taxes with a single flat rate. Moore, who met with Bush yesterday as part of a group called the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, thinks Bush's plan strikes the right tone. But Moore's not sure it goes far enough to satisfy GOP primary voters.

MOORE: Although I agree with almost all of the provisions of this plan, it may lack the kind of pizzazz and boldness that many Americans want to see, especially on the conservative side of the aisle.

HORSLEY: Bush concedes his won't be the loudest or most radical voice in the Republican primary. But he points to a track record of delivering tax cuts in Florida and vows to do the same for the country if he's elected president. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.
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