NPR Politics presents the Lunchbox List: our favorite campaign news and stories curated from NPR and around the Web in digestible bites (100 words or less!). Look for it every weekday afternoon from now until the conventions.

Convention Countdown

The Republican National Convention is in 4 days in Cleveland.

The Democratic National Convention is in 11 days in Philadelphia.

NASA has released the first picture of Jupiter taken since the Juno spacecraft went into orbit around the planet on July 4.

The picture was taken on July 10. Juno was 2.7 million miles from Jupiter at the time. The color image shows some of the atmospheric features of the planet, including the giant red spot. You can also see three of Jupiter's moons in the picture: Io, Europa and Ganymede.

The Senate is set to approve a bill intended to change the way police and health care workers treat people struggling with opioid addictions.

My husband and I once took great pleasure in preparing meals from scratch. We made pizza dough and sauce. We baked bread. We churned ice cream.

Then we became parents.

Now there are some weeks when pre-chopped veggies and a rotisserie chicken are the only things between us and five nights of Chipotle.

Parents are busy. For some of us, figuring out how to get dinner on the table is a daily struggle. So I reached out to food experts, parents and nutritionists for help. Here is some of their (and my) best advice for making weeknight meals happen.

"O Canada," the national anthem of our neighbors up north, comes in two official versions — English and French. They share a melody, but differ in meaning.

Let the record show: neither version of those lyrics contains the phrase "all lives matter."

But at the 2016 All-Star Game, the song got an unexpected edit.

At Petco Park in San Diego, one member of the Canadian singing group The Tenors — by himself, according to the other members of the group — revised the anthem.

School's out, and a lot of parents are getting through the long summer days with extra helpings of digital devices.

How should we feel about that?

Police in Baton Rouge say they have arrested three people who stole guns with the goal of killing police officers. They are still looking for a fourth suspect in the alleged plot, NPR's Greg Allen reports.

"Police say the thefts were at a Baton Rouge pawn shop early Saturday morning," Greg says. "One person was arrested at the scene. Since then, two others have been arrested and six of the eight stolen handguns have been recovered. Police are still looking for one other man."

A 13-year-old boy is among those arrested, Greg says.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

After an international tribunal invalidated Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, Chinese authorities have declared in no uncertain terms that they will be ignoring the ruling.

The Philippines brought the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, objecting to China's claims to maritime rights in the disputed waters. The tribunal agreed that China had no legal authority to claim the waters and was infringing on the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

Donald Trump is firing back at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she disparaged him in several media interviews. He tweeted late Tuesday that she "has embarrassed all" with her "very dumb political statements" about the candidate. Trump ended his tweet with "Her mind is shot - resign!":

Pages

Obama, Romney On Taxes: Similar Plans, Few Details

Oct 1, 2012
Originally published on October 1, 2012 6:20 pm

Here's something President Obama and Mitt Romney agree on: America's tax system is too complicated. Both men have outlined changes that are broadly similar, but with some important differences.

The Problem:

Today's tax code is like a department store, where the price tags are high, but there are lots of coupons, sales and weekend specials. That creates some inequities. Just as shoppers can pay different prices depending on which day they buy, taxpayers with the same income can pay very different rates depending on which deductions they qualify for.

Tax breaks can also distort behavior the same way sale prices do. Would you really buy all those turtlenecks if they weren't 40 percent off? Would you really buy that McMansion if you couldn't deduct the interest payments?

Reformers like Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute say the tax code would be both fairer and more efficient if it were more like a discount store, with fewer sales but everyday low pricing.

"There's broad agreement among economists from left to right that if you can broaden the tax base and lower tax rates, that would be a better tax system," Steuerle says.

Steuerle worked at the Treasury Department during the last big tax overhaul in the 1980s, when policymakers lowered tax rates dramatically and did away with numerous tax breaks. Since then, little by little, tax breaks have crept back in — and today, both Obama and Romney say it's time for another housecleaning.

Two Approaches:

Despite their superficial agreement, though, Tax Notes columnist Bruce Bartlett says the two men approach a tax overhaul with very different goals: "For Republicans, it really only means one thing, and that is lowering statutory rates. ... When Democrats talk about tax reform, I think they're mainly concerned about the distribution of taxation and ... to get the wealthy to pay a larger share. So clearly there's an enormous gulf between their two perspectives."

Romney's tax plan is mostly about lowering rates, though he would also eliminate loopholes so the amount of money the government collects stays the same. Obama's plan, on the other hand, is designed to raise more money to bring down the deficit, with lower tax rates thrown in as a sweetener.

But here's the thing about the so-called loopholes in the tax code: They're not just for the superrich with secret bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. Berkeley economist Laura Tyson, who sits on a couple of White House advisory panels, notes that the two biggest tax breaks are for interest payments on home mortgages and the tax-free health insurance that many workers get from their employers.

"If you end up with a tax reform which significantly cuts something like the mortgage interest deduction, you're going to hit a lot of middle-class families," Tyson says.

That's why both candidates run for cover when asked about the tax breaks they want to eliminate.

On 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley pressed Romney: "The devil's in the details, though. What are we talking about? The mortgage deduction, the charitable deduction?" Romney replied: "The devil's in the details. The angel is in the policy, which is creating more jobs."

Obama was similarly evasive when NPR's Steve Inskeep tried to pin him down back in 2010. Inskeep said: "Your deficit commission talked about lowering everybody's tax rate and eliminating deductions, such as changing the home mortgage deduction and many other deductions as well. That's the kind of plan you're talking about?"

"Well, I have not specifically endorsed that plan," Obama responded.

Obama said at the time he wanted to start a public conversation about a tax overhaul. But the conversation hasn't gone very far.

The Reality:

Steuerle of the Urban Institute says politicians know better than to call for higher taxes on the middle class.

"To be fair to them, that's partly because we the public, as voters, really penalize the candidates when they start identifying who's going to pay for government," Steuerle says.

Tyson says Obama tried to thread this needle by leaving tax breaks in place for middle-class families while limiting deductions available to the very wealthy.

"That proposal really went no place politically, either among Democrats or among Republicans," she says. "The president has proposed that again and again."

Given the difficulty of fixing the individual tax system, Tyson says policymakers might start with a more modest effort to rewrite the corporate tax code.

But Steuerle has his sights set higher. Steuerle says no matter which candidate is in the Oval Office next year, he will have to tackle the deficit or have little money left to spend on any of his other priorities.

Steuerle thinks that could provide the impetus to do the hard work of a broad tax overhaul.

"Sometimes you finally get the person to go to the dentist when the pain from not going to the dentist is greater than the pain from going," he says.

So far, though, it's been getting the candidates to talk specifics that has been like pulling teeth.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

Here's something President Obama and Mitt Romney agree on: America's tax system is too complicated. Both men have outlined reforms with some important differences. Today, we're launching a new series on some of the major challenges facing the country that we're calling Solve This.

NPR's Scott Horsley reports on ideas for simplifying the nation's tax code.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Today's tax code is like a department store, where the price tags are high but there are lots of coupons, sales, and weekend specials. That creates some inequities. Just as shoppers can pay different prices depending on which day they buy, taxpayers with the same income can pay very different rates, depending on which deductions they qualify for.

Tax breaks can also distort behavior, the same way sale prices do. Would you really buy all those turtlenecks if they weren't 40 percent off? Would you really buy that McMansion if you couldn't deduct the interest payments?

Reformers, like Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute, say the tax code would be both fairer and more efficient if it were more like a discount store, with fewer sales but everyday low pricing.

EUGENE STEUERLE: There's broad agreement among economists, from left to right, that if you can broaden the tax base and lower rates that would be a better tax system.

HORSLEY: Steuerle worked at the Treasury Department during the last big tax reform in the 1980s, when policymakers lowered tax rates dramatically and did away with numerous tax breaks. Since then, little by little, tax breaks have crept back in. And today, both President Obama and Mitt Romney say it's time for another housecleaning.

Despite their superficial agreement, though, Tax Notes columnist Bruce Bartlett says the two men approach tax reform with very different goals.

BRUCE BARTLETT: For Republicans, it really only means one thing and that is lowering statutory rates. When Democrats talk about tax reform, I think they're mainly concerned about the distribution of taxation and to get the wealthy to pay a larger share. So, clearly there's an enormous gulf between their two perspectives.

HORSLEY: Romney's tax plan is mostly about lowering rates, though he would also eliminate loopholes so the amount of money the government collects stays the same. Mr. Obama's plan, on the other hand, is designed to raise more money to bring down the deficit, with lower tax rates thrown in as a sweetener. But here's the thing about the so-called loopholes in the tax code. They're not just for fat cats with secret bank accounts in the Cayman Islands.

Berkeley economist Laura Tyson, who sits on a couple of White House advisory panels, notes the two biggest tax breaks are for interest payments on home mortgages and the tax-free health insurance that many workers get from their employers.

LAURA TYSON: If you end up with a tax reform which significantly cuts something like the mortgage interest deduction, you're going to hit a lot of middle class families.

HORSLEY: That's why both candidates run for cover when asked about the tax breaks they want to eliminate. Here's Romney, being grilled by Scott Pelley on "60 Minutes."

(SOUNDBITE OF "60 MINUTES")

SCOTT PELLEY: The devil's in the details, though. What are we talking about? The mortgage deduction, the charitable deduction?

MITT ROMNEY: The devil is in the details, the angel is in the policy, which is creating more jobs.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama was similarly evasive when NPR's Steve Inskeep tried to pin him down back in 2010.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Your deficit commission talked about lowering everybody's tax rate and eliminating deductions, such as changing the home mortgage deduction and many other deductions as well. That's the kind of plan you're talking about?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, I have not specifically endorsed that plan.

HORSLEY: Mr. Obama said at the time he wanted to start a public conversation about tax reform. But that conversation has not gone very far. Steuerle, of the Urban Institute, says politicians know better than to call for higher taxes on the middle class.

STEUERLE: To be fair to them, that's partly because we, the public as voters, really penalize the candidates when they start identifying who's going to pay for government.

HORSLEY: Tyson says President Obama tried to thread this needle by leaving tax breaks in place for middle class families, while limiting deductions available to the very wealthy.

TYSON: That proposal really went no place politically, either among Democrats or among Republicans. The president has proposed that again and again.

HORSLEY: Given the difficulty of fixing the individual tax system, Tyson says policymakers might start with a more modest effort to re-write the corporate tax code. But Steuerle has his sights set higher. He says whichever candidate is in the Oval Office next year, he'll have to tackle the deficit or have little money left to spend on any of his other priorities. Steuerle thinks that could provide the impetus to do the hard work of a broad tax overhaul.

STEUERLE: Sometimes you finally get the person to go to the dentist, when the pain from not going to the dentist is greater than the pain from going.

HORSLEY: So far, though, it's been getting the candidates to talk specifics that's been like pulling teeth.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.