My pal Larry Kudlow had a great chat with Tim Pawlenty last night on CNBC. And he pressed T-Paw hard on a lack, so far, of a detailed pro-growth agenda:
KUDLOW: Reagan had flatter tax rate reforms. … Let’s have new incentives. Let’s stop the double tax on capital gains and dividends and estates and savings and investment. Where are the business tax cuts? We need specifics governor. You’ll turn people on with specific growth measures but you don’t have them yet.
PAWLENTY: Larry, I think have been in the race for all of three business days now. Nonetheless, I agree with what you said. I’ve talked publicly and repeatedly … whether it’s corporate rates, whether it’s individual rates, whether it’s dividends, whether it’s capital gains, whether it’s the death tax, whether it’s capital equipment … we need to take all of those rates and reduce them as far as we can. We need to simplify the tax code, make it pro-growth, make it more transparent and make it friendlier for investment and the deployment of capital.
And then Larry asked him if he was in favor of a 15-17% flat tax. Pawlenty’s response: “Of course, I support a flatter tax rate. I don’t know if we can get to a flat tax in one leap, but moving in a flatter more transparent direction, absolutely.”
Me: By not pushing bold reform on taxes from the outset, Pawlenty is in danger of negotiating against himself. Now is the time for big ideas. Beyond that, Pawlenty did talk coherently about a strong dollar — maybe creating some sort of commodity link — and applying Six Sigma to the federal government, which is an intriguing notion.
It’s still early, but it seems to me that with current and potential GOP 2012 candidate all saying kind of the same thing about Obamacare and debt, taxes are a way for Pawlenty to distinguish himself. He’s not going to overwhelm people with his personality, so why not do it with bold ideas, as Kudlow suggests?