Sometimes understanding a Wall Street Journal editorial requires going beyond its text. From reading its attacks on Senator Marco Rubio over the last few months, you might think that it is passionate about tiny differences in the corporate tax rate. It has blasted Rubio for proposing an amendment that would have lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20.94 percent. The bill at the time lowered it instead to 20 percent.
But almost nobody thinks these small differences matter as much as the Journal’s editors sometimes pretend they do. Journal columnist Holman Jenkins Jr. has recently ridiculed the idea that “the difference between 21% and 28% is vast and telling.” Even the Journal’s editors as a whole don’t really care that much about the rate. When the bill was amended to bring the corporate rate a tiny bit higher than Rubio had proposed—to 21 percent instead of 20.94 percent—they didn’t say boo.
Their real complaint with Rubio is that he wanted to trade a little less corporate tax reduction for a larger child tax credit. The Journal’s editors oppose the credit on principle, which is of course a perfectly legitimate position, albeit one they hold with an emotional fervor that is difficult for outsiders to grasp.
That’s the background against which to read the Journal’s latest denunciation of Rubio. The senator recently reiterated his view that the bill should have cut corporate tax rates less and provided more payroll-tax relief to families. He said, as well, that the economic advantages of cutting the corporate tax are being oversold.
The Journal is more enthusiastic about those economic advantages, and makes some reasonable points on the details of Rubio’s case. But it also says his comments threaten Republican control of Congress, show that he doesn’t know anything about economics, and suggest it’s a good thing his presidential campaign failed. We’re all supposed to be sleeping more soundly at night knowing that the Oval Office isn’t occupied by a dangerous madman who, uh, wanted to cut the corporate tax rate by a slightly different amount than his Republican colleagues.