Here is a potential -- or, at least, conceivable -- area for bipartisan support: reforming the tax code. The Wall Street Journal reports that corporate leaders are pushing and it seems to have some support from both parties:
The White House and congressional Republicans are moving from different directions toward a consensus that the U.S. corporate tax code needs a fundamental overhaul, a goal high on corporate leaders' agenda.
Specific proposals for retooling the complex corporate-tax system aren't on the table and the debate over the issue is sure to be lengthy and difficult. But President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders are separately sounding the same broad theme that corporate tax rates should be lower.
Here's the lay of the issue. Nominal corporate tax rates are higher in the United States than in most other countries. Conservatives complain about this endlessly, and indeed routinely break their taboo against questioning American Exceptionalism by openly demanding that we mimic Europe's policies. However, the corporate tax code has so many loopholes that effective tax rates -- the percentage of tax that corporations actually pay --are actually on the low side:
That isn't very useful. In theory, left and right ought to agree on a reform that would raise the same amount of revenue by closing loopholes and lowering rates. The trouble is, you'd have to get Republicans to agree not to use it as a pretext to reduce revenue, and that could be hard:
Obstacles to a deal to revamp corporate taxes include the likelihood corporations will fight to keep tax breaks that work to their benefit, and White House concerns that any tax overhaul not result in less revenue.
A revamping of corporate taxes also could be hitched to an overhaul of individual taxes, complicating the deal-making and potentially dragging the issue into the 2012 election cycle.
Republicans, however, are unlikely to support a plan that substantially raises the government's total tax take. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R., Ohio), the incoming chairman of a House Ways and Means panel on federal revenue, says it is "unrealistic" to expect businesses to give up enough of their tax breaks to hold revenues flat.
But, like I said, in theory there's both a policy rationale and an interest-group constituency for doing this, so we'll see.