Like most members of Congress, Rep. Lynn Martin, a Republican from the industrial city of Rockford, Ill., could look around her 16th Congressional District and count the reasons for voting against tax reform: It would hurt a machine tool plant here, a steel mill there, and farmers everywhere. Yes, the bill would help the working poor, but Martin does not expect many of them to vote Republican anyway.
In the end, Martin overcame cold feet and voted aye. "I found, as worried as I am about what this bill does, I am even more worried about the current code," she said. "The choice today is not between this bill and a perfect bill. The choice is between this bill and the death of tax reform."
With the President's signature, the American tax code will undergo what is properly described as an historic overhaul. In the long run, and on balance, it should serve the country well. But it will take time to weather an uncertain transition period. Years will pass before the experts can assess its impact on the economy.
Some members of Congress described their vote for the bill as a leap of faith. Now, the American public must exercise considerable patience before reaching a judgment. The focus should be not on instant winners and losers, but the long-range good of the Republic. Economists must resist the temptation to blame every discouraging economic statistic on the new tax rules. The economically depressing effects of the bill are most likely to surface first. The benefits will emerge only over time. At the same time, Congress must be prepared to squash any new, obvious inequities that appear in the form of unintended consequences.