When American voters gave Republicans complete control of Washington in 2016, they knew they’d be getting some innovative, outside-the-box thinking on policy, particularly economic policy. I’m kidding — what they actually knew, or ought to have known, was that they’d be getting the same thing Republicans always advocate: tax cuts for the wealthy and slashing environmental and worker protections.
So it has come to pass. Having achieved those goals, particularly a $1.5 trillion tax cut that has predictably led to an unprecedented round of stock buybacks (and not investment and raises for workers), Republicans retreated to their policy war room, thought and debated and deliberated and analyzed, and came up with a bold new proposal for where to go next.
House Republicans bracing for November’s midterm elections unveiled a second round of tax cuts on Monday that could add more than $2 trillion to the federal deficit over a decade, aiming to cement the steep cuts they passed last fall despite criticisms of fiscal profligacy and tailoring their policies to help the rich.
The GOP’s “tax reform 2.0″ aims to make permanent the tax cuts for individuals that President Trump signed into law in December 2017, including the law’s temporary reductions in individual filers’ rates, a doubling of the Child Tax Credit, and cuts to the estate tax paid by a small fraction of the wealthiest families.
Critics have said the proposed changes would primarily benefit the wealthiest taxpayers, while Republicans have argued their tax cuts help fuel the American economy by putting more money in consumers’ hands.
“Critics have said” that the GOP plan would benefit wealthy people, in the same way critics have said that 2+2=4 and dropping a bowling ball on your foot could produce a sensation of pain.
Why would Republican do this? They aren’t going to vote on it before the November elections, and if those elections turn out the way most everyone expects, it’ll be moot once Democrats take over the House. So there are a number of reasons they might be offering this plan now. One is to lay down a marker so that if they do hold Congress, they can return to it next year. Another is that despite what the polls show about the tax cut they already passed, they believe in the power of tax cuts to win public support sooner or later.
But the most important reason is this: It’s what they really want.
Sometimes politicians take positions or actions they don’t really believe in, out of political expediency or because the alternative is worse. This is not one of those times. Republicans truly, deeply, sincerely, passionately believe that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations are simply good. As far as they’re concerned, the taxing of corporations and the wealthy is just morally wrong, and anything they can do to ease the cruel burden under which our noble job creators suffer is an act of the utmost humanitarianism.
It’s why they always refer to tax cuts as “tax relief.” Once they come through with more cuts, the put-upon plutocrats will sigh, “Ahhhhh — what a relief!” and Republicans will know they have done what they came to Washington to do.
Tax cuts for the wealthy are the one thing that for Republicans is absolutely non-negotiable. When they assume power, there are certainly other things they want to do, but cutting taxes on the wealthy is the one thing they absolutely, positively will do. Nothing is more important.
And please, don’t be so gauche as to mention that were it enacted, this proposal would add hugely to the deficit Republicans pretend to care about. Yes, the Congressional Budget Office says the deficit will top $1 trillion in 2020 even under current law. But we’re all adults here: We know that the deficit is only a rhetorical tool used to justify things such as cutting the safety net or keeping federal worker pay down. It’s supposed to actually constrain what we do only when there’s a Democrat in the White House.
Republicans will insist that this time, the tax cuts really will create such an explosion of economic activity that they’ll pay for themselves and create a paradise of limitless prosperity. Sure, that’s what they say every time and it never happens. But sometimes you just need faith.
That is something Republicans have in infinite supply: faith that cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy is righteous and glorious, the most honorable thing they could do with the power they hold. George W. Bush did it, Ronald Reagan did it, Donald Trump did it, and by God they’re going to keep doing it if it takes the last breath in their bodies.