By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – They own this now.
The hidden, hasty, chaotic and stumbling way President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans in Congress rammed through their grab-bag tax reform package means they will have no one to blame if their rosy promises for its successes aren’t fulfilled.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
The sloppiness of the effort became clear late in the process. In their rush to push the measure through, Republicans in the U.S. Senate found themselves voting on provisions that the chamber’s rules required them to pass by larger margins than a simple majority. It was the sort of thing even the most perfunctory analysis of the bill in a normal adoption process would have caught.
But, in the GOP’s desperate “don’t-think-just-vote” panic to get something – anything – passed to please their donor base, Republicans just didn’t want to give much thought to making sure that the T’s and I’s were crossed and dotted.
Or even that the numbers added up.
Because they couldn’t bother to read it before they passed it, they made an amateur mistake and forced the U.S. House of Representatives to vote on it again before sending it to President Trump for his signature.
The president has been tweeting that this tax package is a triumph.
Maybe it is for him and other billionaires or near-billionaires, but there’s little evidence that Americans who don’t have gold-plated bathroom fixtures or consider caviar a staple will benefit nearly as much.
If at all.
Appraisals by observers who didn’t drink the GOP Kool-Aid by the gallon argue that this plan will:
n Shift the tax burden over the next 10 years from the wealthiest Americans to those in the middle and lower economic rungs;
n Add nearly $1.5 trillion to the national debt;
n Strip healthcare coverage from 13 million Americans, 4 million of them immediately;
n And increase the health insurance premiums of many other Americans by 10 to 20 percent.
The president and other Republicans say all this is necessary to jump-start the economy. They argue that giving the corporate class a 40 percent tax cut will give CEOs and other employers “permission” to invest in new projects and hire new workers.
This would be laudable, if it were true.
But most studies reveal that the tax plan won’t encourage employers to take on new workers – or pay more money to the ones they already have – and thus stimulate the economy.
That’s because tax policies – and certainly not tax giveaways to the wealthy – don’t stimulate growth.
When everyday Americans have money to purchase goods and services, everyone benefits because their spending generates wealth and growth all up and down the ladder.
Perhaps if the president and Republicans had done what they said they were going to do – focus on creating opportunities for and protecting the middle-class – this might have had some of the impact they hoped for.
But, even if Republicans in Washington talk as if they want to help middle America, it’s clear they don’t think or vote that way.
This disconnect is obvious even in the way the president tried to make the case for the tax plan.
Trump has loved to tout the booming economy as evidence of his mastery of public affairs. He even had his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, boast that it was marvelous to see how the stock market could climb by 25 percent when a businessman rather than a liberal politician – a reference to Trump’s predecessor, former President Barack Obama – is in the Oval Office.
It was a curious claim for several reasons.
The first is that the market climbed by 33 percent during Obama’s first year in the White House.
The second is that it undercuts the argument for the tax package. If things are going so great, why make changes?
The third is that, until this tax package became law, Trump had no significant legislative achievements. The policies that were driving the growth he had Sanders crow about were products of Obama’s tenure.
With the passage of this tax redistribution plan, President Trump and his fellow Republicans no longer will be able to complain about deficit spending with any credibility. Nor will they be able to blame any economic sluggishness or inequality on anyone but themselves.
They own this now.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.