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A bit of context

Published by Daniel Malloy on .

The Pat Toomey campaign is responding to today's new ad from Joe Sestak with this, from spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik:

Joe Sestak has had all summer to think of something to say about his record in Washington, and he couldn’t come up with one thing that Pennsylvanians would like.  After Sestak voted 100% with Nancy Pelosi, and voted for the disastrous Obama health care bill, for the Wall Street bailouts, and for record national debt, it’s no surprise that his first television ad is 100% negative. Like he has done so many times before, Congressman Sestak takes Pat Toomey’s comments out of context.  In the 2007 video, Pat was merely trying to explain that consumers ultimately pay for taxes on businesses through higher prices. Pat agrees with President Obama’s own expert tax panel which proposed cutting the tax on businesses to make U.S. companies more competitive.  Pat understands that a zero tax rate on businesses is impractical for a host of reasons, and that’s why he has consistently argued for lowering taxes on businesses to create jobs, and that’s a major difference between Pat and Joe Sestak.  Pat believes jobs comes from cutting taxes and reducing deficits and Sestak believes jobs come from more Washington spending and a failed stimulus bill.
The out of context complaint is something frequently bandied about in political campaigns, so let's have a look at the full clip of the 2007 CNBC segment with Toomey -- then the head of the Club for Growth -- and Brookings scholar and former Clinton administration economic adviser Jason Furman:
In the clip, Toomey clearly supports the elimination of corporate taxes, with no ambiguity: "Let's have a transparent system. Let's not tax corporations. Let's allow them to compete most aggressively on the global economy. It's better for our workers. It's better for our economy. It would attract more capital. I think the solution is to eliminate corporate taxes altogether."
Later, when pressed on the point by the CNBC host of whether eliminating the corporate tax would be legislatively feasible, Toomey seemed to acknowledge that his goal might not happen in Congress: "A rational discussion can only lead to the conclusion that we should have a simpler tax code and rates, at a minimum, much lower. I’d prefer none on corporations, but much lower would be better."
Soloveichik clarified for me in an interview that Toomey, should he get to the Senate, would champion lower corporate taxes, as the rates are now among the highest in the developed world (though, as Furman notes in the CNBC clip, myriad loopholes make the actual corporate tax burden among the lowest). "He knows it's not a realistic policy position and more an intellectual policy position than anything else," Soloveichik said of eliminating corporate taxes.
Toomey has supported the "fair tax" -- a national sales tax that would eliminate all income and corporate taxes -- in the past, though Soloveichik said he's often been skeptical of the idea and is interested more generally in simplifying the tax code, which is universally acknowledged to be a bear.
When asked what specific tax policies Toomey would support in the Senate, Soloveichik said he would like to see the Bush tax cuts made permanent, further reduction in income taxes and the elimination of the alternative minimum tax.
UPDATE: 6:20 p.m. The Sestak campaign helpfully passes along this segment from Toomey's book "Road to Prosperity," in which Toomey writes that getting rid of the corporate income tax would have been a better use of $787 billion than the stimulus.
For little more in lost revenue than was than was spent in that single bill, Congress could have eliminated all corporate income taxes for nearly for nearly three full years.  America would have become by far the most tax advantaged country in the world.  We would have attracted a flood of new capital investment, new start-up ventures, and expansions of existing businesses.

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