Thursday, December 21, 2017

Trump's Tax Bill Passes

The Republican Tax bill passed the House and Senate. Trump will soon sign it. I've written elsewhere about why I think it's not a very good idea. I'll probably save a few bucks. Some very wealthy people I know will save much more. Most of the people I know will probably break even, give or take a few hundred dollars. I do not think that the change in tax policy will bring about the alleged stated benefits. We've run this experiment many times before, most recently in Kansas. Supply-side economics doesn't work. I do think that Republicans will use the increased deficits to justify slashing their real targets of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. You can read for yourself why my favorite economist believes that this "tax reform" is a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good policy move, here, here and here. I'm not necessarily interested in rehashing all of that though obviously I generally agree with his take. There were three points that intrigued me about the tax bill and the Democratic reaction to it.

While driving home listening to Democratic or liberal politicians and pundits on various SIRIUS XM stations, I was grimly bemused by how many of them were outraged that the Republicans were able to pass this bill without a single Democratic vote. They seemed to think that this was proof positive that the bill was illegitimate. Well, what goes around comes around. Republicans used the same talking point about passage of the PPACA. Democrats were just as scornfully dismissive of those complaints then as Republicans are today. What matters is do you have the votes. And Republicans did. 

The female Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins along with the Black male Republican Tim Scott voted for this bill. Murkowski's price for her vote included opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, something which I think is truly odious. But it does show that people who are insistent that better political results can be attained by electing more women (of any race) or blacks (of either gender) might want to at least consider that someone's immutable characteristics do not tell you what sort of person they are. Their ideology does. Just electing more white women or black people doesn't necessarily change anything.

The Democrats, realizing that their preferred anti-Trump tactic of "We'll see you in court" was inapplicable to this change, made predictions of Democratic wave elections victories in 2018. They may well be correct. The tax bill is very unpopular. Trump didn't get elected because of taxes. I think that there is an opportunity for Democrats to make political hay out of this tax bill but only if they make massive outreach to the people who are not registered and/or do not vote. At the margins, the Democrats may win back some disaffected Republican voters as well but the important thing is to bring new Democratic voters to the polls. The Republicans have made it obvious that the most important thing to them, something which animates them above all else, is tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Democrats, who currently have the advantage of an unpopular tax bill and toxic President, need to emphasize their economic differences with Republicans over the next year.
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