Being a Republican, these days comes with its share of embarrassing challenges. You’re stuck with an anti-intellectual president with no ideas more recent than 1960, a toxic candidate for Senator in the Alabama special election and a disastrous legislative agenda. It’s serious cognitive dissonance time, folks.
On the one hand, we now have the competent adults (read that Republicans) in charge, (both houses and the white house), thereby removing any alibies of liberal interference with their (at last) responsible governance. On the other hand, the long-promised legislative agenda promised seems not to be forth-coming. Why is that?
As a middle-of-the-road Independent, I have some thoughts on that, but in the end, what really matters is the facts and nothing illustrates those facts like the Tax Cuts & Job Act. Here’s what your elected representatives are up to...
Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
Charitably, it’s a bipolar hot mess, of political expediency driven by donor demands and nervous legislators looking ahead to 2018. as the non-partisan Tax Policy Center notes in their latest analysis. Without going into all the arcane rules of Senate budget procedures, the Senate version does some things constituents are certain to dislike when/if they figure it out.
There are indeed individual tax cuts for middle income families in the Senate version of the TCJA. They’re not as generous proportionally as those tendered to business, but if you believe in trickle- down economics, that shouldn’t bother you…should it? Read on.
The Byrd Rule
If you’re anything like me, you’re really not so fixated on the machinations in Washington that you can recall from memory what the hell this rule is. Fortunately for us, the TPC can. As they note in the reference cited above, the Byrd Rule bars passage of any bill with a simple majority if it adds to the deficit within ten years. The original plan drafted by Orrin Hatch ® Utah would have triggered the Byrd Rule, requiring 60 votes for passage.
In order to navigate around that problem, Senate Republicans had to engage in a bit of financial creativity, the high points of which follow.
- The individual tax cuts will sunset in 2025, resulting by 2027 in a net tax increase for individual taxpayers.
- Corporate tax cuts, on the other hand, will be permanent. (Gotta keep those donors happy, after all).
- The latest plan would also eliminate the tax penalty for individuals without health insurance. Good deal? Not really. The probable outcome is that plan prices will rise sharply and immediately, potentially leaving as many as 13 million more Americans without insurance. Over the long pull, the upward pressure on health costs would continue to increase, with a significant reduction in net disposable income. (Oh…and haven’t we already had the whole health insurance discussion?)
As Howard Gleckman Senior Fellow Urban & Brookings Institute concludes:
“This is indefensible tax policy. It would become the apotheosis of tax extenders, effectively turning the entire individual income tax code into the one giant temporary tax cut. Such a short-term tax reduction might make sense if the nation were mired in recession. But it is impossible to defend at a time of near full-employment, with the Federal Reserve already raising interest rates as the economy strengthens.
The politics of Hatch’s Byrd gambit is premised on two big ideas: First, voters will be so enthralled by their initial tax cuts that they’ll ignore the bill’s future tax increases. Second, nobody—not even Democrats--would be willing to allow the bill’s tax cuts to expire. Democrats, of course, believed no-one would kill the Affordable Care Act.
And budget scoring aside, if the bill is extended after 2025 it would add hundreds of billions of dollars a year to the deficit.
Once touted by its sponsors as the greatest tax reform in a generation, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is rapidly descending into the mire of political expediency.”
Our nation has long functioned on partisan ideas competing for constituent support, based on an exploration of the best available facts. In recent years, both principle parties have played fast and loose with the truth, with a single, profound distinction. Republicans have repurposed “spin” to outright deception with intent.
Dirk is the author of West of Tomorrow, a contemporary story of corporate intrigue, betrayal, misplaced love and the phoenix that lives in all of his. He is currently working on Best Case Scenario, the first volume in a coming of age story series, and Through the Windshield, a collection of short stories. Both will be out in 2017. Dirk is also working on the pilot volume in The Knolan Cycle, the pilot volume in a science fiction series of first contact. Tier Zero, the first volume will be out in 2018.
Thoughtful readers of Dirk’s work will immediately sense several threads running through all of his writings.
- The protagonists & to some degree all characters in his stories are in the process of searching for the next higher expression of their best selves. They seek the spiritual phoenix that lives in all of us.
- Implicit in this is the dissatisfaction with things as they are, leading them to embrace change, growth & the attendant pain accompanying both.
- As part of this growth, the characters ultimately recognize the role of others in their higher, better selves, both in bringing it out of them in the first place & the fulfillment that comes from being of service to them.
Stewardship, citizen, leadership & good followership & it’s role in well-ordered lives and societies.