Thursday, June 01, 2017

Nobody likes the border adjustment tax — except the House Republicans who won't let it go

Alexia Fernández Campbell · Wednesday, May 24, 2017, 3:23 pm

The border adjustment tax seemed as good as dead. Big retailers like Walmart and Target had been lobbying hard against it. The National Retail Federation launched an aggressive campaign to kill it. The Senate didn’t seem to want it. And the White House doesn’t like it.

But the provision, which would essentially add a 20 percent tax on imported goods while exempting US exports, was the key solution House Republicans had come up with to raise enough revenue to offset corporate tax cuts. They don’t seem to have an alternative plan — which is why they refuse to let the border adjustment die.

On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee staged a revival effort, in the form of a congressional hearing. Its name reflected a new public relations strategy: Increasing US Competitiveness and Preventing American Jobs From Moving Overseas.

Committee Chair Kevin Brady made a hard sell for the tax, describing a nation ravaged by competition from abroad and manufacturers finding it more profitable to operate overseas. He talked about the need to fix the tax code to help American businesses that are struggling to stay ahead.

He pointed out that most developed countries in the world have a similar value-added tax on imports, and compared the United States to countries like Cuba and North Korea, which don’t.

“No more special tax breaks for foreign products,” Brady said. “For the first time, we will level the playing field for American workers, farmers, and manufacturers.”

Meanwhile, GOP leaders have ramped up a new marketing campaign to sell the provision, including to their own members. They even handed out a “communications document” describing how to talk about the merits of the provision (which Politico published on Monday).

In the document, House Republicans outlined their communications strategy, which included three steps to selling the BAT. Step 1: Link the broken tax code to job losses in manufacturing. Step 2: Personalize the message. (“To make the case, highlight someone in your district who has been hurt by an American business moving its jobs and headquarters overseas.”) Step 3: Get the word out through blog posts, op-eds, and social media.

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