Lee sees this idea through the prism of the debate over trade. "We can't shut down the global economy," he tells me. "What we can do is bring more of the global economy here and channel more of the fruits of the global economy to American workers."
Unlike proposals for higher tariffs or other kinds of taxes on imports, Lee says, this new approach to business taxation would "align the interests of global investors and American workers."
As they have refined their proposal, though, Toder and Viard have included some features that Lee has not adopted. Under current law, capital gains are taxed when they are realized. Raising the capital-gains tax creates a "lock-in" problem: People will avoid selling their stocks in order to avoid paying the tax.
The economists would therefore switch to taxing capital gains as they are accrued. But share values can be volatile, and taxing capital on an accrual basis could have the opposite effect: forcing people to sell assets that have sharply appreciated to pay the tax.
So the plan would also include a "smoothing" provision. Lee would stick with taxing capital gains when they are realized, thus avoiding the need for smoothing but creating the lock-in problem.
The economists also decided to cut the corporate rate to 15 percent rather than eliminate the tax altogether. They made this change in part to keep their proposal from causing too large a loss in federal revenue, but also for other reasons: It made it possible to tax foreign investors, for example.
That adjustment, though, necessitated another. Keeping the corporate tax while raising capital taxes on individuals re-created the problem of double taxation, which they would remedy by giving shareholders a tax credit. Lee, on the other hand, would just scrap the corporate tax, telling me he prefers "the simplicity of just zeroing it out."
But he also says that he is flexible on the details. Going for simplicity makes sense when introducing an unfamiliar idea to the political debate. "What I am trying to do is start a conversation," he says.
It's a potentially productive conversation. It's just bound to get more complicated as it progresses.