Memo To: Cokie Roberts
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Tax/Campaign Reform
The bright spot on your Sunday show was Steve Forbes dumping on the GOP/Clinton budget. If you review the show, you will be reminded of a very insightful thing that George Will said about campaign finance — when he said a simplified tax system would solve the problem of citizens having to buy tax favors with huge campaign contributions. He, of course, is absolutely right. The 84-year old tax code is totally out of control, in the sense that it now contains so many exceptions, loopholes and subsidies that every special interest that feels it is being disadvantaged by not having a big enough exception, loophole or subsidy must make major contributions to candidates in both parties to adjust the disadvantage in the next tax bill. I talked to Bob Torricelli the other day about this when he said he hoped Congress could do something serious about campaign finance reform — this from a man who spent his last years in the House almost constantly on the phone and on the road raising money for his Senate campaign. I told him it is not possible to write a reform that will stop people from buying tax favors that will mean their life or death. Every year, I said, members of Congress introduce legislation to tax casino gambling, and Steve Wynn & Co. immediately schedule a fundraiser for Democrats and one for Republicans, and the legislation is shelved. That's how silly and corrupt the system has become. Only tax reform can solve the problem. It is a hopeless task to even discuss campaign finance as it will never, ever happen. Even if the government shoulders all the costs of campaigns, people will still find ways to buy influence in both executive and legislative branches. At least with a tax system that starts from scratch, everyone is on an equal footing, and the number of people needing exemptions, loopholes or subsidies drops from millions to thousands. In another 80 years or so, the same problem will repeat itself.
P.S. Your roundtable is much too long. And neither Kristol nor Stephanopolous have anything interesting to say. Tony Snow has the best roundtable, Russert okay, but yours is weak, which would not be so noticeable if it were not so extended.