Republican leaders in Congress are putting the economy and their political future at risk by breaking two fundamental rules of politics with the tax reform plan they’re trying to force on the people.
The first rule House Speaker Paul Ryan and crew are ignoring? “First, do no harm.”
This tax bill will harm those who are chronically ill, on fixed incomes, and the elderly by eliminating deductions for “qualified medical expenses” that exceed 10% of an individual’s gross adjusted income. That covers patients who need kidney dialysis and other very costly treatments for chronic conditions.
By its very nature, such deductions affect those who are shouldering an extraordinary burden that is not reimbursed by insurance — which means they’re most likely the very “middle class” Americans that the GOP claims it wants to help.
It’s stupid policy and politics for Ryan and the GOP establishment to throw them overboard in their haste to “get something done.”
And to add insult to injury, since Ryan’s Republicans could not deliver on repealing Obamacare, they are simply making themselves the bad guys on health care policy across the board.
The second major bit of wisdom Congressional GOP leaders ignore at their peril? “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”
This so-called tax reform bill plays on class warfare — but unlike Democrats, who are masters at dividing Americans against each other for their own political benefit, Republicans did the opposite: they united a large segment of their own supporters with their political enemies against their own keynote reform bill.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that this bill gives massive corporations like Apple a permanent corporate tax cut — from 35 to 20% — while raising taxes an estimated $100 billion on successful small business owners and professionals in the highest of all high-tax states, California, by eliminating the state and local tax deduction.
To make matters worse, Ryan is ignoring the fact that the highest-taxed state in the nation also happens to be one of the top sources of campaign donations to the Republican Party and candidates nationally.
Orange County, California, is the second-largest source of donations to Republicans, period. Turning the very people who brought them to the dance — those who largely financed the Republican takeover of the House, the Senate and the Presidency — into enemies isn’t smart strategy in war or politics.
In addition, by capping the mortgage deduction at $500,000, Ryan energized California realtors against the bill — turning what ordinarily would be one of the Republican Party’s most reliable allies in red and blue states alike into ground troops to help anyone who opposes this monstrosity of a tax reform bill.
That does not bode well in states like California, where Hillary Clinton won a number of districts that used to be automatic checks in the red column. Now, Ryan will have to spend far more money in 2018, and may still lose seats, as his clueless candidates walk in lockstep with the political establishment at a time when anti-establishment fervor is running high.
According to one survey by the University of Chicago, 37 out of 38 economists hate the new tax bill. That’s quite an accomplishment, since it is almost impossible to get economists to agree on anything. Their biggest gripe? It will cause “U.S. debt to increase ‘substantially’ faster than the economy.”
If only Paul Ryan could have taken a page out of the playbooks of much more astute leaders like Presidents. John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan: Keep it simple, stupid!
An across-th- board tax cut for everyone who pays taxes would not only have been good policy, spurring robust economic growth and job creation, but it would have been good politics uniting the political establishment with the conservative base of the party.
It was Breitbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon himself who suggested in a recent speech in California that when the GOP establishment unites with the conservative movement, we’re “unstoppable.”
The GOP needs leadership that will fight for true reform on the basis of sound economic principles instead of simply giving in to the fear of the media characterizing the bill as “tax cuts for the rich.”
How anyone in this post-Trump era could still use the “fear of the media calling us names” playbook and remain in charge says a lot about the complete lack of leadership in the Republican Congress.
Ryan’s claim that after the GOP tax reform bill is passed into law, Republicans will learn to love it, echoes the insulting attitude of the previous speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who once said of Obamacare: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”
Others, like Rep. Mimi Walters (R-CA), whose “Hillary District” is a top Democrat target, have employed another Democrat tactic — namely, dismissing current constituent concerns, claiming that they will most likely be fixed in conference with the Senate.
That begs the question; ‘Isn’t that the job of a representative?’
With only 33% of Americans in support of Ryan’s plan, and a full 50% opposed, it might behoove the Republicans to punt for the remainder of 2017 and live to fight another day.
That would give them plenty of time to go back to the drawing board and come up with a bill that includes sound, winning policy ideas like actual cuts to stimulate the economy, along with real reforms instead of just more political gimmickry.
Tim Donnelly is an author, former California State Assemblyman, and is running for Congress in California’s 8th District.