ASPEN, Colo. — President Bill Clinton says the nation's corporate tax rate is "uncompetitive" and called for a lower rate as part of a "mega-deal" to raise the debt ceiling.
"When I was president, we raised the corporate income-tax rates on corporations that made over $10 million [a year]," the former president told the Aspen Ideas Festival on Saturday evening.
"It made sense when I did it. It doesn't make sense anymore — we've got an uncompetitive rate. We tax at 35 percent of income, although we only take about 23 percent. So we should cut the rate to 25 percent, or whatever's competitive, and eliminate a lot of the deductions so that we still get a fair amount, and there's not so much variance in what the corporations pay. But how can they do that by Aug. 2?"
Clinton also said Grover Norquist, who as president of Americans for Tax Reform is the GOP's unofficial enforcer of no-new-taxes pledges, has a "chilling" hold on the nation's lawmaking.
The former president said it has seemed like Republicans need any revenue concessions to be "approved in advance by Grover Norquist."
"You're laughing," he told the crowd of 800. "But he was quoted in the paper the other day saying he gave Republican senators permission … on getting rid of the ethanol subsidies. I thought, 'My God, what has this country come to when one person has to give you permission to do what's best for the country.' It was chilling."
Asked by moderator Ron Brownstein what President Obama's posture should be on a debt deal if Republicans hold to their view that no new taxes can be included, Clinton replied: "Well, look, there are some spending cuts [Republicans] agree on, … and apparently they run it by a fair number of people in the Democratic caucuses …
"He could take those, and an extension of the debt ceiling for six or eight months. But if they're really going to reach a mega-deal, you cannot reach a mega-deal without doing something like what the Bowles-Simpson committee recommended. … I don't see how you can do this by Aug. 2. …
"I don't think you can agree to some mega-deal on [the Republicans'] terms. … If they get closer, I believe they will agree on a more modest package of cuts. And the Republicans, if I were in their position, I'd say, 'OK, this only counts for six months' or eight months, or whatever. 'But we don't want to let the American people's credit go under, let our credit get downgraded, let interest rates get up and slow down the recovery.'"