America needs more prophecies. “Game of Thrones” has lots of prophecies, like one about “the Prince that was Promised” (Jon Snow? That would be good). “Star Wars” had a prophecy, about the “Chosen One” who would “bring balance to the Force” (that turned out to be Darth Vader, not quite as good). “Harry Potter” had plenty of prophecies too, including one that should have greatly interested Harry’s life insurance agent.
How’s this for a prophecy right here in the good ‘ole U.S. of A. One day there shall arise a leader, who shall be known as the “sElected One.” This leader shall have piercing eyes and plentiful hair, born of ancestry both noble and diverse. He (or she, but probably he) shall have credentials as conservative as they are impeccable, a record as spotless as it is bountiful, and an intellect as disarming as his (or her, but probably his) personality is charming. The sElected One’s personal life shall be beyond reproach.
He shall hail from the wholesome countryside but have toiled for years in the inner cities. He shall have built a billion-dollar company in the private sector (without government assistance, of course), while also earning Silver Stars as a war hero (but only in a good war, not a divisive one). The sElected One shall be firm yet flexible, assertive yet inclusive, and innovative yet traditional. He shall lead the conservative movement, and the country, to new heights only imagined by President Reagan.
One day, perhaps sooner, perhaps later, the prophecy shall be fulfilled. Until then, we have Mike Pence. He’s the likely Republican nominee for vice president, and that’s something to applaud.
A Career Conservative
Even as some conservative pundits skewer Pence over a handful of issues, his career reveals him as a principled conservative who has fought and often won battles for individual liberty and free markets. As a congressman, Pence voted against the Toxic Asset Relief Program bailout and the expansion of Medicaid, both tough votes against his party and his president. In 2012, the American Conservative Union gave Pence a lifetime rating of 99 percent.
As governor, Pence has lowered taxes, reduced regulations, and expanded school choice. He has repeatedly sued the federal government over such overreaches as Obamacare, the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon dioxide regulations, and President Obama’s executive order on immigration.
With the economy sorely in need of a jolt, conservatives should especially cheer Pence’s record on tax reform. Not only has Pence reduced tax rates, he has reformed and simplified Indiana’s byzantine tax code—something desperately needed at the federal level. For instance, Pence repealed Indiana’s death tax and gave local governments a range of options to reduce or eliminate Indiana’s burdensome business personal property tax. These efforts led the Tax Foundation to move Indiana into the top ten for overall state business tax climate, ahead of Texas, and earned Pence the foundation’s award for State Tax Reform.
After this initial flurry of activity, Pence sought to reduce the tax code’s structural burden on individual taxpayers and the private sector. In 2014, Pence hosted a conference on “Tax Competitiveness and Simplification” that brought together policy experts from around the country, including Art Laffer, Grover Norquist, and scholars from the Tax Foundation and Mercatus Center. The conference produced numerous ideas for sound, conservative tax policy, all centered on the concepts of simplicity, transparency, stability, and fairness.
As part of this conference, Pence listened to the policy experts. He wanted to know how tax reform had played out in other states and countries (one scholar, from the Mercatus Institute, had helped shape New Zealand’s tax system). He asked questions about the fiscal and distributive effects of different tax policies. He read studies on how tax policy can help grow, or slow, an economy.
This Was One Heck of a Tax Reform
As a result of this conference, Pence simplified Indiana’s tax code. For individual taxpayers, Indiana eliminated almost 20 unique credits, deductions, and add-backs to the definition of adjusted gross income, all of which needlessly complicated the tax code and narrowed the tax base. For businesses, Indiana repealed its outdated “throwback” rule for corporate income taxes, which unfairly forced manufacturers to pay taxes on income earned in other states. Indiana also reduced “tax pyramiding,” which taxed the same activity more than once, thereby harming consumers.
Finally, Pence reduced overall compliance costs for all taxpayers. Indiana enacted much clearer and simpler statutory language to allow businesses to structure their activities with more certainty. Pence also reduced the tax code’s regulatory burden by repealing about 40 percent of all tax regulations.
Perhaps most notably, Pence simplified Indiana’s tax system while maintaining revenue neutrality, a key ingredient to gaining bipartisan support for meaningful tax reform. Some individual provisions reduced tax revenue while other provisions increased tax revenue, but as a whole the changes were projected to have no appreciable fiscal impact. This principle helped persuade the legislature and taxpaying community to restructure the tax code.
Is Pence “the sElected One”? Maybe, maybe not. Even so, he has pursued an innovative conservative agenda, and if his record is not impeccable, he has built a strong record of success. Conservatives should feel very comfortable with Mike Pence.