Fri December 10, 2010
The Two-Way

Obama's Goal Said To Be Simpler Tax Code With Broader Base, Lower Rates

President Barack Obama told NPR's Steve Inskeep yesterday that "simplifying the (tax) system, hopefully lowering rates, broadening the base -- that's something that I think most economists think would help us propel economic growth."

Morning Edition focused on that part of the story here. And The New York Times adds just a bit more with a piece headlined "Obama Weighs Tax Overhaul In Bid To Address Debt."

Here are a few important lines from that report:

"Mr. Obama has directed his economic team and Treasury Department analysts to review options for closing loopholes and simplifying income taxes for corporations and individuals. ... The objective is to rid the code of its complex buildup of deductions, credits and exemptions, thereby broadening the base of taxes collected and allowing for lower rates."

Here's a recording of the president's conversation with Steve. You can hear much more about it on Morning Edition. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show:

Update at 3:15 p.m. ET: As we said in the last hour, NPR's Scott Horsley will have more on today's All Things Considered.

While doing his reporting, Scott spoke with Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA, who says about 20 senators -- Republicans and Democrats -- want to include a call for tax reform and deficit reduction when the Senate considers the president's tax cut compromise.

"We've got to demonstrate, as the Congress, that we can walk and chew gum at the same time, "Warner says. "There's a lot of members that, while they may end up supporting the president's compromise, also feel that here's a good time to indicate that next year we are going to come back and take up the really hard task of tax reform and deficit reduction."

Former Sen. Bill Bradley, D-NJ, was a key player the last time there was a tax overhaul, in the mid-'80s. Scott notes that since then, however, lawmakers have made thousands of changes to the tax code -- adding new loopholes and deductions that cost the government close to a trillion dollars a year. As he reports, "it's a lot easier for lawmakers to add tax breaks than to win approval for government spending."

Bradley, though, points out that the 1986 overhaul proves "sometimes legislators can surprise the public by doing something the pundits never thought was possible."

Update at 2:45 p.m. ET: NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley will have more on All Things Considered later today about the administration's bid to use the attention now being paid to taxes as a way to spur debate on overhauling the system. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.

Update at 7:35 a.m. ET. The Times' story is "way overwritten," White House says.

Steve just got this e-mail from Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director:

"On tax reform, the NYT story is way overwritten. The right answer is the one the president gave you. He is interested in it, thinks it could be an important part of the deficit/spending conversation, but recognizes that tax reform efforts often take years.

"The Times suggest we are about to launch a major effort.

"That is not correct." Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.