- GOP Eyes Tax Overhaul — And Lessons From Health-Care Failure
Moments after their hopes of undoing Obamacare unraveled, President Donald Trump and top Republicans said in unison that they’re moving on to another ambitious goal — overhauling the U.S. tax code.
“We will probably start going very, very strongly for the big tax cuts and tax reform,” Trump said to reporters Friday after the House bill was pulled from a scheduled floor vote. “That will be next.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters that Republicans will proceed with tax legislation — and said he met with Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier on Friday to discuss taxes. Ryan sounded a note of caution: The health bill’s failure “does make tax reform more difficult,” he said, “but it doesn’t in any way make it impossible.”
Even before the health bill was withdrawn, two of the Trump administration’s top economic officials were shifting the conversation toward taxes. Mnuchin and White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney both said Friday that the White House is at work on a plan for both individual and corporate tax changes that’s coming soon.
Still, Ryan’s frank assessment of his party’s missed opportunity on health care Friday afternoon might just as well apply to tax legislation. “Doing big things is hard,” the speaker told reporters.
That sentiment reflected the mood of some anxious and frustrated Republicans, who were unable to muster enough votes in their first major test of governing in the Trump era. Several lawmakers said a complete overhaul of the tax code — which hasn’t been done in more than 30 years — would be tougher in the wake of the American Health Care Act’s defeat, as might the rest of their agenda.
“We have to learn that we’re not just the party of no,” said Representative Steve Womack of Arkansas, a member of the House GOP’s whip team. “We have to learn how to govern.”
This month, Trump, a billionaire businessman who touted his expertise on tax-avoidance strategies during his campaign, had at times seemed wistful about letting tax issues take a back seat to health policy. On Monday, during a campaign-style rally in Louisville, he told the crowd: “We want a very big tax cut, but cannot do that until we keep our promise to repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare.”
Now, he and fellow Republicans will face heightened political pressure to deliver on taxes, and the president’s tactics may have to evolve, lawmakers said.
“My guess is he has learned through this process that politics is different from business,” said Representative Bill Huizenga, a Michigan Republican, on Friday afternoon. Lawmakers answer to their constituents, not the president, he said. “There’s no ability to sit at a table and say ‘You’re fired.’”
One difference that’s already apparent: Lawmakers and administration officials seem inclined to take more time on tax legislation. The health-care bill was introduced, marked up, passed through committees and scheduled for a floor vote in just a few weeks. On taxes, House leaders have said they hope to pass a bill by August. Top Republican senators say it may take longer than that.
It’s unclear how Trump will propose to change tax laws. On Feb. 9, he promised a “phenomenal” tax plan in two or three weeks. That was six weeks ago.
His tax proposals changed over the course of his campaign — by Election Day, his plan had moved closer to the blueprint that Ryan and other House leaders prefer. Both plans would consolidate the number of individual income-tax rates to three from the existing seven; the top rate would drop to 33 percent from 39.6 percent currently.
Trump has said he wants a “massive” tax cut for the middle class, but independent analyses of the House tax blueprint have concluded that it would benefit high-earners far more.
On corporate taxes, Trump and Ryan have yet to forge an agreement — particularly over the controversial issue of “border adjustments.” Ryan favors replacing the existing 35 percent corporate income tax with a 20 percent tax rate on companies’ domestic sales and imports. Exports would be excluded.
That border-adjusted approach — which opponents say would increase consumer prices — has divided Trump’s White House advisers, and the president hasn’t yet announced a position on it. Leading Republican senators have also expressed reservations. Supporters say higher prices on imported goods would be offset over time by a strengthening dollar.
For all the controversy surrounding it, though, the border-adjustment concept would raise an estimated $1.1 trillion over 10 years, giving Republican tax-cutters breathing space for reducing the corporate rate. Losing that provision will make it more difficult to achieve revenue-neutral tax legislation, complicating its chances in the Senate.
The failed health-care bill would have helped. It contained tax cuts of its own, about $999 billion worth over 10 years that would have been paid for by spending cuts — most of them in the federal Medicaid program that provides health care to the poor. Republicans said the resulting lower revenue baseline would have made a revenue-neutral tax overhaul that much easier.
Balancing revenue and cuts in the tax bill would allow it to bypass rules requiring 60 votes in the Senate, where Republicans hold only 52 seats. Democrats — none of whom supported the GOP health-care bill in the House — will be similarly wary on tax legislation, said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. If the bill winds up benefiting the wealthy and not the middle-class, “it won’t fly either,” he said.
Democrats aren’t the only potential obstacles. As Ryan learned in the health-care setback, the divide between moderate House Republicans and the conservative Freedom Caucus proved impossible to bridge. “The moderates in our conference and the Freedom Caucus are truly at opposite ends of the issues,” said Representative Chris Collins of New York, a Trump ally. “And so you get one, you lose one, you get one, you lose one.”
Mnuchin on Friday didn’t address such concerns, as he predicted a smoother glide path for tax legislation. “Health care and tax reform are two different issues,” he said during an event sponsored by the media company Axios. “Health care is complicated, tax reform is a lot simpler in some ways.”
Also upbeat was House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, the House’s top tax writer, who said Republicans intend to go “full steam ahead” on a tax overhaul, “and we’re gonna work with the administration to get this done.”
“Look, we fought hard for Obamacare repeal, we did fall short,” he said. “I’m not discouraged.”
Still, much depends on Trump’s leadership; his advisers signaled on Friday that he’ll take an active role. “When you see tax reform the first time, it will be the president’s plan and we’ll drive the debate on that,” Mulvaney said during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
To drive it effectively, Trump will have to change his ways, said Brian Walsh, a former Senate Republican leadership aide.
“He needs to engage early, often, and consistently, and take his message directly to the American people on the issues he cares about,” said Walsh, who argued that Trump was unnecessarily distracted on the health-care issue. “If the President heeds the lessons from this debate that could bode well for tax reform, but if he does not we could well see a replay of this mess in the months ahead.”
African Union Holds Global Conference to Accelerate African Vaccine Development and Manufacturing Capacity
African leaders assembled at a global meeting to discuss the status of local pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent, underscored the need to increase local production of vaccines and therapeutics to achieve greater public-health security.
“The production of vaccines and access to vaccines is an absolute priority,” Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, said Monday in opening remarks at the start of the two-day virtual meeting, convened by the African Union.
The meeting was attended by several African heads of state, health, finance and trade ministers from across the continent, as well as officials from global financial institutions, foundations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, business leaders, and the general public. The African Development Bank was represented by Solomon Quaynor, Vice President Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization.
Although Africa consumes approximately one-quarter of global vaccines by volume, it manufactures less than 1% of its routine vaccines, with almost no outbreak vaccine manufacturing in place. The region lags behind in procuring vaccines amid a global scramble for the medicines among wealthier nations. Thus far, only around 2% of the world’s vaccination against Covid-19 has taken place in Africa.
The need for a new public health order in Africa, which promotes domestic vaccine manufacturing, epidemic preparedness and upgraded healthcare systems to meet the needs of the world’s fastest-growing population, was the conference’s main objective.
The African Union and the Africa CDC said they would continue to work with all stakeholders to identify implementable actions, financing needs and timelines to competitively produce vaccines in Africa.
Quaynor noted that the current undertaking would require immense investment. “Vaccine manufacturing, because of its complexity, is not really an entrepreneurial drive but actually an institutional drive,” he added.
The African Development Bank is working with global and African stakeholders, to articulate a 2030 vision for Africa’s Pharmaceutical Industry in response to several calls received from African Heads of State, who have expressed a strong political will. This vision aligns with its “industrialize Africa” priority strategy.
The vision will build on previous efforts to produce a continental plan of action to boost local African pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, such as the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa adopted in Abuja in January 2005 and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA), prepared by the African Union Commission and the United Nations in 2012, to assist local manufacturers with pharmaceutical production.
Quaynor said Africa could count on the African Development Bank’s support to secure Africa’s health defense system. “Leveraging on our comparative advantages, we will both provide upstream support to governments on the enabling environment, as well as provide financing to private sector and PPPs both indirectly through some of our private equity investee funds and directly through lending, and credit and risk guarantees. We will also use the Africa Investment Forum to bring in all relevant stakeholders and partner DFIs into bankable opportunities…”
The 2030 vision for Africa’s pharmaceutical industry would also work with pharmaceutical industry associations in Africa to create capacity development links between universities and industry in Africa, and work with African scientists in the diaspora, Quaynor said in remarks made on behalf of African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina.
ITF, Nigerian Air Force, Others, Sign MOU To Advance Research
The Industrial Training Fund, ITF has signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, and Equipment and Protective Application International Limited to establish the framework that will give room for optimal performance as well as enhance productivity.
The Director General, Industrial Training Fund, Sir Joseph Ari while speaking at the NAF headquarters in Abuja, said the MOU will be pursued with vigour and all the seriousness it deserves so that greater success would be the catalyst that will drive their intentions.
He explained that over the years, ITF had redirected its focus on technical, vocational training and education noting that developed nations are where they are today because of the initiative.
According to him, “even here in Abuja, we have a model of a skills training centre and the model was brought in from the Singaporean experience of the institute for technical education and services of Singapore”.
“We brought a semblance of it here to experience with five trade areas, Mechatronics and Autotronics, Computer Networking, ICT, Facility Technology as well as culinary in both African and Western cuisine is right there in the heart of Abuja in the ITF house, it is like a university”.
“The ITF is well positioned to work hand in hand with the Nigerian Air Force,” he said
The ITF boss added; “I must say that the Chief of Air Staff has a lot of foresight with his men to think about this Memorandum of Understanding because I deed, ITF is where you should be”.
“The ITF came into contact with the Nigerian Air Force even though a lot of the officers of the Air Force might have participated in its programmes in the past and since then I have noticed that NAF has not relented in its efforts to equipped it’s workforce and also upgrade and retrain its people,” Sir Ari added.
He also commended the men and officers of the NAF for their sacrifice in keeping the nation safe.
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal, Oladayo Amao said the Nigerian Air Force has a highly technical Service and technology is the bedrock of all its operations.
Represented by the Chief of Standards and Evaluation, Air Vice Marshal, Olusegun Philip, Amao noted that in line with the focus of the Federal Government in promoting indigenous technology, the Nigerian Air Force has been looking inwards to gradually wean itself of overdependence on foreign technology and to become more innovative and resourceful.
“Therefore, in order to advance the Nigerian Air Force’s Research and Development efforts, we have deemed it necessary to formally collaborate with indigenous organizations through the signing of Memorandum of Understanding,” Amao stated.
“These collaborative efforts provide pedestals to leapfrog capability as well as a repertoire of capabilities that can be harnessed”.
“The collaborative efforts also provide platforms to synergise ideas for innovations that are key to achieving meaningful results to solve the technological challenges we currently face in a cost effective manner,” he said.
The Managing Director, Equipment and Protective Application International Limited, Engineer, Kola Balogun however, assured that the MOU entered would be for the overall economic benefit and development of the nation.
SERAP Urges FG to Slash Politicians’ Allowances
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Chairman of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Elias Mbam, to urgently review upward the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for Nigerian Judges, and reduce the remuneration of President Muhammadu Buhari and other political office-holders in order to address the persistent poor treatment of Judges, and improve access of victims of corruption to justice.
The appeal came on the heels of a nationwide industrial action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to press home their demand for financial autonomy for the judicial arm of government, and the federal government silence on the judiciary workers’ strike that has grounded court activities across the country.
In a letter dated April 10, 2021, which was signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said Judges should get all they are reasonably entitled to, and that it is unfair, illegal, unconstitutional, and discriminatory to continue to treat Judges as second-class people, while high-ranking political office holders enjoy lavish salaries and allowances.
SERAP expressed concern that the remuneration and allowances of Judges have fallen substantially behind the average salaries and allowances of political office-holders such as president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as members of the National Assembly.
The letter read in part: “According to our information, the last review of the remuneration, allowances, and conditions of service for political, public and judicial office holders carried out by RMAFC in 2009 shows huge disparity between the remuneration and allowances of judges and those of political office holders.
“Judges’ work is very considerable but they cannot give their entire time to their judicial duties without the RMAFC reviewing upward their remuneration and allowances, and closing the gap and disparity between the salaries of judges and those of political office holders such as the president, vice-president, governors and their deputies, as well as lawmakers.
“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the RMAFC to comply with our requests.”
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