“A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System,” each of these last two successful reform efforts came after a thirty-two-year interval. In 2018, it will be thirty-two years since the Reagan-O’Neill reforms.


If Paul Ryan and the G.O.P. can’t pass tax cuts, it’s fair to ask if there’s anything they can do. Photograph by David Ryder / Bloomberg via Getty

Back in January, Paul Ryan, the main architect of the Republican Party’s 2017 legislative agenda, outlined an ambitious schedule to repeal Obamacare and pass tax reform. He told his fellow-Republicans, at a retreat in Philadelphia, that Obamacare would be dead and gone by April and what he promised would be “revenue-neutral” tax legislation—that is, tax reform that would not add to the deficit—would be enacted before members went home for the August recess. Ryan, according to Politico, used a Gantt chart, like those used in construction projects, to sell the plan to Trump, who enthusiastically endorsed it. Since then, things haven’t gone exactly according to plan.

Republicans were unable to undo the Affordable Care Act, and, because of the limits of reconciliation, the arcane parliamentary process they used to attempt to repeal it, they only have until September 30th if they want to try again. Despite a last-ditch attempt in the Senate by Lindsey Graham, Dean Heller and others today, all indications are that the Party has given up and moved on to tax reform. Last week, Trump tweeted, “Republicans, sorry, but I’ve been hearing about Repeal & Replace for 7 years, didn’t happen!” He added, “Republicans must start the Tax Reform/Tax Cut legislation ASAP. Don’t wait until the end of September. Needed now more than ever. Hurry!”

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