President Trump’s first year in office has been a failure for him and a failure for the Republicans in Congress who were skeptical of his candidacy, worried about his bombast and doubtful about his competence for the world’s toughest job. At this point, one might say all fears have been realized in a way, as the president has lunged through his first 11 months offending everyone from members of Congress to entire religious groups (Muslims) and has even continued to blame President Obama for all the nation’s ills.
Now, however, GOP leaders in Congress who don’t even like Trump very much are prepared to let him lead them – or perhaps that should be, push them along – to tax reform that by virtually all accounts of economists both partisan and nonpartisan will be a gift for the rich, one that the middle class eventually will pay for once their own tax breaks expire.
Some historians and economists even see echoes of the run-up to the Great Depression, when the wealthy sat back and enjoyed a boom, not listening for the rumbles of the quake that hit the economy in 1929.
And the Republican reform plan has enlisted the reluctant support of some in the party who don’t really want to go along with it but feel they have no choice else they would draw the ire of the president. The plan relies on the tried and untrue theory of “trickle-down” economics. That’s where the rich get richer and, if they’re in the mood, create a few jobs down yonder in the middle class.
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But what if it doesn’t work? Ah, well then, cuts will have to be made to social programs and thanks to the GOP’s determination to end as much of the Affordable Care Act as it can, millions of Americans would be without health insurance and others would pay much more. A shortfall of revenue also would cause a kick-in of cuts to Medicare.
Once that happened, of course, Republicans in Washington isolated from the day-to-day worries of average Americans would indeed be driven from office. For all the flirtation with “reforming” Medicare and Social Security, savvy politicians know that to cut those sacred entitlements would be to invite political doomsday.
The problem is, that the Republican “reform” will do a lot of damage long before middle America could drive the rascals out in an election.
The end of the estate tax, which affects the very wealthy, would pass up appropriate revenue and enrich the rich some more. And after the sunset of some breaks – a little financial voodoo to make “reform” attractive to the middle class – economists say those making $40,000 to $50,000 a year would in 10 years be paying more in taxes, while the rich still would pay less.
Doesn’t make sense? Sure it does – if you’re one of the Koch brothers or others who are big contributors to the Republican candidates from the statehouse to Congress. Those donors are and have always been the ones pushing hard for tax reform even though it doesn’t seem to strike a chord with average Americans. There’s no sane reason, for example, why tax reform proposals should not go through the usual rounds of hearings and review and amendments and public debate that important pieces of legislation have to endure.
But there is one reason: Scrutiny, scrutiny that strips away the gilded cape of the Emperor of Tax Reform, won’t make the GOP idea look better. The more one sees it, the worse it looks.
Meanwhile, Trump the blusterer will continue to tout his “middle class tax reform” knowing the GOP plan isn’t that at all.
It is sad to see Republicans fall in line behind something that some of them know is seriously flawed. They could have supported a cut in corporate taxes, cuts for the middle class, perhaps even a lowering of rates overall without blowing up the deficit ($1.5 trillion). Instead, they’re being intimidated by a president unbound by reason, civility, logic or common sense.