Reagan's man for tax policy a backer of cuts-for-stimulus
Who is Norman Ture, and what will he do that will affect most Americans in the coming months? He's going back to an employer he left 20- odd years ago -- the US Treasury. He won't be the boss, but he'll have a lot of influence over policy -- policy that directly affects the pocketbook of every taxpayer in America.
Mr. Ture runs an economic consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Early last week he was named undersecretary of the Treasury for tax policy by President-elect Ronald Reagan.
Experts say Ture's appointment is a significant development. For one thing, the top tax job has been upgraded in status -- from assistant secretary to undersecretary. And Ture, an economist, has been named to a job usually filled by a lawyer more intent on legal issues than broad economic impact.
Ture began his taxation career working for the Joint Economic Committee in the '50s. He then moved to the Treasury's Office of Tax Analysis. Later, he sat on the board of governors of Charls E. Walker's American Council for Capital Formation.
"He believes that lowering taxes has a stimulating effect on the economy," says Dr. Rudolph Penner, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "He expresses less fear about [government] deficit effects."
Not everyone is pleased about the appointment.
"He is basically notched as an extremely conservative guy whose capabilities are average but not outstanding," says Taxation With Representationhs Tom Fields. Similarly, a prominent Democratic economist says the naming of Ture "shows the Reagan administration is settling for second-rate people."
Questions of personal capability aside, the appointment will provide Washington soirees with a valuable clue to use in their latest parlor game.
From November to January everyone played "Who'll be in the Cabinet?" That's been replaced by "What form will the tax cuts take?"
Discussion has centered on the chances of Kemp-Roth, the controversial bill that would cut personal income tax by 10 percent a year for three years. According to Republican estimates, the bill would cost the government $130 billion a year in lost revenues by 1985.
Mr. Reagan backed Kemp-Roth during the campaign. Since then he has reaffirmed his support -- but not very loudly. Even Rep. Jack Kemp, sponsor of the bill, has hinted that the President-elect is considering a diluted version.
And Congress may take some persuading. The incoming chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, has opposed Kemp-Roth in the past. So has Sen. Robert Dole, new head of the Senate Finance Committee.
As a supply-sider -- an economist who maintains that proper tax cuts can quickly stimulate the supply of goods and services -- Norman Ture may well push adoption of the bill.
"There's no question but he will urge prompt adoption of the first year of Kemp- Roth," one economist says.
Ten-5-3 is the magic number for another much-talked-about tax cut that would liberalize business depreciation allowances. Reagan has backed 10-5-3 (in which investment is written off-over 10, 5, or 3 years), but opponents say the bill is simplistic. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D) of Texas has proposed a more complex version , which has earned the support of the Senate Finance Committee.
Sources close to Ture say the undersecretary supports 10-5-3 in principle.
"We're all agreed on the 10-5-3 concept," says one Republican. "But the final bill might not take that form."
One tax quirk sure to be altered by the new administration is the "marriage penalty" -- a situation in which a married couple, both working, could save taxes by divorcing and living together. The windfall-profits tax will also probably be bent a bit, exempting wells that produce only a few barrels a day.
Capital-gains taxes are also likely to come under scrutiny, as are income taxes for Americans working abroad. Laws governing both may well be relaxed.
Republicans say specific tax cuts will echo basic themes. One hope is that tax policy can be tailored to stimulate business capital formation. And Treasury Secretary-designate Donald Regan has said that encouraging personal savings will be an administration priority.