IT WAS altogether predictable. When the Senate Finance Committee sat down to draft a tax bill, it primly agreed to hold the reduction in the range of $25 billion to $30 billion. By the end of the first day's work, it was up to $33 billion. By the time the bill was, in a manner of speaking, completed, the total was $39 billion. The committee likes to please, and it particularly likes to please the swarms of lobbyists that cluster around its offices.
As it stands, this bill is a mindless anthology of responses to all the fads, complaints, special pleading and half-considered bright thoughts that have been buzzing around the subject of taxation this season. It stands as a classic demonstration of the reasons for not trying to write tax legislation late in an election year.
The putative reason for all this haste -- that a tax cut is urgently needed to end the recession -- is, of course, a fake. Even if the bill became law tomorrow, the recession would have ended long before the economy actually began to feel the bill's stimulative effects. Worse, passage of this bill, with the resulting prospect of higher inflation, might well cause a relapse. The defects and dangers in this bill are obvious. The Senate Budget Committee is giving the bill no support. Lack of enthusiasm is rampant in the House.
The Finance Committee has tried to give something to everyone and, among other things, it attempted to revise the rules for business depreciation. The present tangled and unsatisfactory rules require attention. But there are larger and more promising possibilities that need to be considered and discussed before Congress writes a law crucial to business investment.
The next tax cut, whether done badly or well, will necessarily be the starting point for the next administration's whole economic strategy. That's why it ought to be left to the next administration.