Steve Rose

Kansas Republicans claim tax bill will be good for the middle class. It won’t be

Ronald Reagan is famous for confessing that the new debt caused by the tax cuts he championed in his first time was the greatest disappointment of his presidency.
Ronald Reagan is famous for confessing that the new debt caused by the tax cuts he championed in his first time was the greatest disappointment of his presidency. AP

If you are a Bob Dole Republican, as I generally am, it is oh-so-difficult to be gung ho about where the GOP is headed these days, which seems like straight to hell. The party all too often has abandoned traditional Republican principles.

The gargantuan tax bill, touted by President Donald Trump and passed by the House of Representatives, is being debated in the Senate. Only one aspect of the bill personifies Republican principles, and that is a pro-business tilt, which I can embrace, but only to a point. When the result is higher taxes on the middle class, they lose me. To sell this massive tax cut for businesses and the wealthy as a boon to the middle class is an outright distortion. And to claim the bill is not a trillion-dollar-plus budget buster is either a bald-faced lie, or those who support it are living in the same fairy tale as Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.

One of the key components of the proposed tax bill is the elimination of the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT). The loudest screams about SALT are from taxpayers in high-tax states, where those deductions are huge. But the damage is not limited there.

Many middle-income taxpayers here will be significantly impacted. Case in point is Johnson County.

The population of Johnson County is almost 600,000, and the number of households is approximately 200,000. Of those households, half claim the SALT deduction, according to the National Association of Counties. And how much does each household deduct? In 2015, the average SALT deduction was $12, 281. And here’s the kicker: More than 80 percent of middle-income taxpayers in Johnson County benefit from this deduction.

These middle-income taxpayers are constituents of 3rd District Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder, as well as Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran. They all claim this bill will be good for the middle class.

But that is not true, and to shift the tax burden to these hard-working citizens by eliminating that deduction to offset the impact of slashed corporate tax rates is immoral. To brag that this bill helps the middle class is downright depraved.

When I wrote recently that Yoder betrayed his constituents by voting for the same kind of irresponsible massive tax cuts as Kansans experienced under Brownback, several readers protested. They claimed the two tax cuts have nothing to do with each other.

They are not just similar. They are twins. Republicans at the federal level are claiming, just like Brownback did, that there will not be a resulting massive deficit if taxes are slashed. Most independent, non-partisan researchers predict a $1.5 trillion deficit will be the result of the tax cuts that have been proposed.

Blinded Republicans claim these huge tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy will stimulate the economy enough that overall revenue will grow, not shrink. Revenue growth is supposed to trickle down to the middle-class taxpayers.

Sound familiar? That is exactly what was sold to Kansans, who saw their state’s budget hemorrhage. Nothing trickled down except cuts in services for the middle class.

The counter-argument we often hear is that President Ronald Reagan slashed taxes, primarily on the highest-income Americans, which stimulated the economy. And it did. Yet, Reagan is famous for confessing that the new debt caused by these tax cuts was the greatest disappointment of his presidency. In fact, taxes subsequently had to be raised, under both Reagan and President Bill Clinton, to reduce the soaring deficit.

Republicans in Congress are desperate for a victory. But this House-passed tax bill — unless it is rewritten by the Senate — is a big loser for most Americans. If it passes, this tax plan will go down in history as a monumental misjudgment by Republicans.

Trump, Yoder and undoubtedly Roberts and Moran, as well as nearly all Republicans in Congress, will be punishing their own middle-class constituents. Ironically, many of those constituents, including those in Johnson County, are Republicans.