Why would the GOP balk at a corporate tax cut?

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As promised, President Obama spoke in Tennessee this afternoon, and made congressional Republicans an offer they probably shouldn’t refuse: the GOP would get corporate tax reforms, including lower rates, while Democrats would get investments in infrastructure and manufacturing.

“Here’s the bottom line: I’m willing to work with Republicans on reforming our corporate tax code, as long as we use the money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle-class jobs,” Obama said in Chattanooga. “That’s the deal.”

Now, as a substantive matter, you might be wondering how (and whether) the numbers add up. How is it that lower corporate tax rates would pay for new jobs? The answer is a little wonky, but it has to do with a one-time fee on deferred foreign earnings. Wonky or not, it’s a policy worth tens of billions of dollars, which Democrats want to use to create jobs.

As was arguably obvious from the outset, most congressional Republicans have already rejected the offer, maintaining their flawless track record of reflexively opposing everything Obama is for, even when Obama agrees with Republicans.

But in this case, GOP opposition is just a little more difficult to understand. Sure, when the White House proposes new tax revenue from the wealthy, it stands to reason that Republicans will scream bloody murder. When the president talks about increasing the size of government in any appreciable way, we know the GOP will go berserk.

But corporate tax breaks and infrastructure jobs? Why announce knee-jerk opposition to these ideas?

I’ve spent some time this afternoon collecting Republican complaints about the new Obama offer, so let’s take them one at a time.

* Republicans learned about the offer through the media: One of the first responses from Speaker Boehner’s office this morning was that the White House didn’t call them first about the idea. The White House claims they called Boehner last night, but he didn’t respond. But really, I have no idea why anyone would give a darn. What does this have to do with the economic merits?

* Republicans want even more tax cuts: Corporate tax breaks are nice, GOP officials have said, but they’re not interested unless there are also tax breaks for wealthy individuals. The problem, of course, is that tax breaks for the rich don’t create jobs, do make the deficit worse (remember when Republicans occasionally pretended to care about the deficit?), and don’t have anything to do with the offer on the table. Obama is willing to trade lower corporate rates for infrastructure jobs – this is either worthwhile or it’s not. Pointing at some unrelated tax policy is a needless distraction.

* Obama likes corporate tax reform, so this doesn’t count as a concession: It’s true that the president has offered lower corporate rates before, which Republicans now insist means he’s doing what he wants, rather than what they want. The irony of the complaint is overwhelming – the GOP is spending the afternoon arguing that the radical socialist president they hold in contempt is too big a supporter of lower corporate tax rates. This is transparently silly.

* The offer could hurt small businesses: That was the argument from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell this morning, and I have no idea what he’s talking about. Why would lower corporate rates hurt small businesses?

* The president’s plan isn’t bipartisan: This is another gem from McConnell, and unless he’s prepared to say cutting taxes on corporations is a Democratic idea, I’m hard pressed to imagine why anyone would take this seriously.

* Corporate tax reform should be revenue neutral: Many Republicans have spent today arguing that if officials agree to lower corporate tax rates, the plan shouldn’t generate any revenue that could be used for anything else. But why hold this position? Why deliberately argue that investing in jobs is a bad idea that Republicans cannot support? It’s just bizarre to see GOP officials take a firm stand in support of higher unemployment just for the sake of higher unemployment, as if they find job creation offensive for some unknown reason.

As for the Republican counter-offer for Obama to consider, as best as I can tell, it doesn’t exist.

I’m sure, however, that another Obamacare repeal vote will be scheduled any day now, along with something to do with abortion.

Barack Obama, Tax Policy and Tax Reform

Why would the GOP balk at a corporate tax cut?

Updated