Suppose, for a moment, that the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the group overseeing the 2022 campaigns of all Democratic senators and Senate candidates, announced that Democrats, if they keep congressional majorities after November’s elections, would enact a plan that would raise taxes on working families more than $1 trillion over 10 years.
Further suppose that this top Democratic official also pledged that the Democratic majority would “sunset” laws that provide Americans with Social Security and Medicare, military retirement benefits, veterans programs, unemployment compensation, student loans, deposit insurance and more. Additionally, the Democrats would require U.S. businesses to shut down $600 billion a year in foreign trade and abandon countless billions in overseas investments.
The cry from Republican officials and the Fox News echo chamber would be deafening. Socialism! Defund! Tyranny! They might not even have time left to blame President Biden for Russia’s Ukraine invasion or high gas prices.
Now, back to reality: An outline of exactly such a legislative agenda was introduced two weeks ago — by the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.). The sweeping plan caused a kerfuffle for a couple of days, but Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) stepped in to disavow it, the coverage died down and the issue faded.
That the Republican’s plan is not kitchen-table conversation across America is a testament to the asymmetry of our current politics, in which Democrats are at a decided disadvantage.
Scott’s proposal is easily the most radical document to be put forward by a member of the leadership of a major political party in modern times. “Americans deserve to know what we will do,” Scott, who is in charge of the GOP bid to retake the Senate, wrote in the introduction to his “An 11-Point Plan to Rescue America.”
The NRSC chairman is proposing a 10-year tax increase of more than $1 trillion on, in his own words, “more than half of Americans,” to make sure every household pays taxes. The bean counters at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy ran the numbers on what ITEP called the “only possible interpretation of Sen. Scott’s proposal” (making sure every household pays at least $1 in federal income tax) and found that the Republican plan would raise taxes by $100 billion a year, or more than $1 trillion over the standard 10-year budgeting time frame. Almost all of it would be shouldered by households with income of $100,000 or less.
Scott’s plan would also sunset — eliminate — all federal legislation over five years, under the (risky) assumption that worthy laws would be reenacted. That could mean an end to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, everything else mentioned above — and potentially more.
Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s how McConnell recently described the Scott plan: “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years.”
Of course, even if passed by a Republican-majority Congress, none of these plans would become law with Biden holding a veto pen, but it’s significant that the NRSC chief — Donald Trump’s preferred candidate to oust “Old Crow” McConnell as Senate GOP leader — is still standing behind it, and Republican candidates have generally not disowned it.
The GOP-Fox News echo chamber has successfully branded Democrats as proponents of the “green new deal,” “defunding the police,” “socialism” and “woke” indoctrination in “critical race theory” — even though such ideas are not embraced by the vast majority of Democrats in office, and certainly not by anyone in a leadership position such as Scott’s.
The difference, of course, is Democrats don’t have an equivalent of Fox News, which repeats the propaganda du jour in multiple “reports” throughout the day. Democrats are also congenitally unable to stick to a message.
Could this time be different? The White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democrats have been hammering away at the Scott plan. The DSCC has done radio ads, news conferences, statements and a mobile billboard that circled this week’s Senate Republican retreat. Senate Democrats are talking about holding show votes on elements of Scott’s plan.
All Democrats need do is repeat Scott’s own words. “Gradually end all imports from Communist China.” That’s $600 billion a year in trade. “Build supply chains that rely solely on American workers and allies.” That would wipe out vast amounts of U.S. foreign investment. “Cut the IRS funding and workforce by 50 percent.” Good luck getting your tax refund. Sell off all “non-essential” government property. Goodbye, national parks? Cut off funds to states “other than disaster relief.” No money for health care, education, housing or roads. “Prohibit debt ceiling increases.” Get ready to default.
As Scott himself says, “Americans deserve to know what we will do.”