Tax reform fever has gripped Washington, with Republicans trumpeting the party line far and wide that tax cuts need to happen and need to happen now.
To that, we say phooey.
The GOP concept is poorly conceived, poorly timed and is once again way too generous to the rich, a strategy that Republicans have now turned into a regular and increasingly annoying habit.
It is also something else: a rush job aimed primarily at scoring political points with American voters. It was written in secret with little to no input from Democrats and details disclosed way too late in the process.
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As we’ve noted before, Congress spent two years negotiating the historic Tax Reform Act of 1986 that was truly a bipartisan effort back in the days when bipartisanship had a place in American politics. This year’s effort has been churning for merely a matter of months with bills coming out of the House and Senate only in recent days. Washington is in a big fat hurry here, and the reason is painfully obvious.
The GOP is scrambling for a legislative victory following a year of mostly ignoble defeats that includes, most glaringly, the party’s inability to repeal the Affordable Care Act after spending the entirety of 2016 stomping all over the law. Republicans nationally are worried sick that they’re on the brink of becoming another Virginia Republican Party, which suffered a series of demoralizing defeats Tuesday.
But pure politics isn’t reason enough to add another $1.7 trillion to the federal budget deficit.
What bothers us most about the GOP plan is its disingenuous roll-out. President Donald Trump has billed the plan as a big cut for the middle class when, in fact, the legislation doesn’t do much at all. In fact, Trump is reported to have waved his hand and ordered his economic team to revisit the impact on the middle class after a meeting with senators last month.
“Take care of it,” the president told his team, according to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden who attended.
Taxpayers in the top 1 percent (those earning above $730,000 a year) would receive about 50 percent of the total tax benefits, concluded the non-partisan Tax Policy Center in its review of the House bill. Meantime, about 25 percent of all households, including some in the middle class, will see their taxes rise during the next few years.
“Fundamentally, this is a corporate business tax bill. It’s what it really is,” said South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford.
One other concern that’s gotten too little attention: The GOP plan could blow a $500 million to $1 billion hole in the Missouri state budget as a result of changes to the standard deduction.
Major tax reform, including tax cuts, might be better saved for times when the economy truly needs a boost. Right now, we’re in solid shape with low unemployment, steady growth of 3 percent and a raging stock market.
“Economy roaring,” Trump tweeted in September.
We’re far more interested in the long-touted, but largely abandoned, bipartisan infrastructure package. Highways, bridges, airports and ports aren’t sexy, but are oh-so-vital, and so many are in lousy shape.
We favor tax simplification. And if Congress wants to get serious on a true middle-class tax cut to boost long-stagnant wages, we’re listening.
But more help for the rich makes no sense. This is the wrong plan at the wrong time.