White House to pitch business tax ‘framework’ to compete with Romney’s reform announcement

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Gov. Mitt Romney is preparing to release a new tax plan on Wednesday, and President Obama’s deputies are slated to release a “framework for business tax reform to enhance American competitiveness” on the same day.

Obama’s campaign-trail “framework” has little chance of passing a GOP-led House or a Democratic-led Senate. But it may swamp the otherwise inevitable media coverage of Romney’s detailed plan, and muffle the former Massachusetts governor’s election-year argument that he would be a better steward of the economy than Obama has been since 2009.

Romney’s plan, according to Larry Kudlow, a CNBC television host, “will be across-the-board with supply-side incentives from rate reduction, and … will help small business owners as well as everyone else.”

Obama’s campaign has repeatedly tried to gate-crash the GOP presidential primaries, sometimes by scheduling presidential speeches and fly-ins near GOP political debates, and more commonly by deploying local advocates wherever GOP candidates make appearances.

On Tuesday, Romney, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul will compete in primary elections in Michigan and Arizona.

Yesterday Obama’s campaign team prepped the establishment media by releasing an nine-page report strongly criticizing the budget proposals offered by Romney and Sen. Rick Santorum.

“They have both proposed irresponsible and reckless tax plans that would drive up the deficit by trillions of dollars, while their claims to balance the budget through spending cuts are completely unrealistic,” said the Feb. 21 critique from the Obama campaign policy director James Kvaal.

“Romney’s plan would increase the deficit by at least $175 billion a year … with its even larger tax cuts, the Santorum plan would drive up the deficit even higher,” said the Obama campaign briefing paper.

An outline of Obama’s new tax reform framework was described in the late-night press release announcing Wednesday’s 11.30 a.m. briefing at the Treasury Department.

“Secretary [Timothy] Geithner will conduct a pen and pad briefing to discuss the release of the President’s framework for business tax reform to enhance American competitiveness by simplifying the tax code and eliminating dozens of loopholes and subsidies; incentivizing job creation and investment here at home; and lowering the business rate while broadening the tax base,” the announcement said.

A White House official said last night that the framework would raise revenues on corporations by eliminating many tax breaks while reducing the corporate tax-rate from 35 percent to 28 percent.

Obama, however, is not scheduled to discuss his tax framework on Wednesday.

Instead, just prior to the no-cameras-allowed Geithner event, the president will give a short televised speech at the construction site of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum, expected to cost $500 million, will provide Obama another opportunity to appeal to the many African-Americans who helped him win in 2008.

In previous pitches to the media, Obama’s plans have often failed to offer enough details for critics in Congress and elsewhere to begin debating his proposals.

For example, due to lack of details, the Congressional Budget Office never was able to gauge the likely impact of policies Obama described in his April 2011 deficit-reduction speech at George Washington University.

Similarly, Obama’s deputies have repeatedly declined to estimate how much extra tax revenue would be generated by the so-called “Buffett Plan,” which would set a minimum tax of roughly 30 percent on wealthy Americans, even though that proposal is a staple of Obama’s 2012 campaign speeches.

Wednesday’s tax framework is also likely to leave many unexplained gaps.

But even a vague framework will allow the president to parade as a tax reformer during the final year of his term in office, even though his record so far includes roughly $6 trillion in requested deficit spending and a downgraded national credit rating.

And even if it lacks specifics, that framework will help Obama persuade the establishment media to portray him to be as much of a tax-reformer at Romney or Santorum

Providing his framework remains vague, it will also give him a rhetorical stage to slam Romney’s tax proposals without exposing his own tax plan to green-eyeshade critiques in a way that could weaken his claims to be a tax reformer in the coming election season.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this report incorrectly identified Larry Kudlow as a “supporter” of Mitt Romney.