Feeling burned by the House Freedom Caucus, which brought down his health care plan, President Trump now wants to work with Democrats. In principle, that’s a good thing. One of Trump’s advantages as President is that he doesn’t have deep ties to either party. History shows major legislative changes are more stable if they have bipartisan support. And politics is like golf: things usually go better when the ball is near the middle of the fairway.
Problem is, there’s not much in Trump’s tax plan for Democrats to love. A substantial cut in tax rates for corporations and individuals inevitably does more for high-income earners than anyone else. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said flatly that “there will be no absolute tax cut for the upper class” and that any rate reductions at the top will be offset by the closing of loopholes. But the math behind that statement remains a deep mystery.
That’s why noises out of the White House this morning suggest the President may push tax reform and infrastructure spending at the same time. At least that would give the working man something to love—jobs.
But how do you do that? Well one tax deal that could get done this year is repatriation. Allow American companies to bring home some of the $2 trillion they have stashed overseas, at a reduced tax rate but with strings attached that require them to use the money either to make job-creating investments or buy infrastructure bonds. That’s a deal that already has bipartisan support in Congress, thanks to the work of Democratic Rep. John Delaney—whose efforts earned him a nod in Fortune’s new list of the World’s Greatest Leaders.
Repatriation is hardly the grand tax reform plan that Trump and others have been touting. But it’s a starting place. Maybe something bigger can be built from there.
In the meantime, the market has clearly lost faith in talk of a grand tax reform. Analysts at Goldman Sachs put together a basket of companies with high tax rates as a bellwether of sentiment. After the election, those shares soared relative to the S&P. But in recent weeks, they have under performed.