Republicans have cleared most of the obstacles to their tax bill and will likely send it to Donald Trump for his signature sometime in the next day or two. Republicans in Congress are rejoicing. The American people are not.
According to SurveyMonkey poll, 58% of Americans disapprove of the bill and only 37% approve. Only a third of the people think they’ll see lower taxes. They also don’t believe that the tax plan will pay for itself through increased economic performance. In other words, they believe it will add to the deficit.
New York Times economics reporter Ben Casselman believes that the poll’s results may show broader dissatisfaction with the GOP and the tax plan. He said in a tweet that “many people I spoke to said they oppose the bill *even if* it would cut their taxes. People cited concerns about spending cuts, the deficit, inequality, etc.”
In other words, voters believe that Republicans are out of touch with their concerns. Cutting taxes is not one of their top priorities right now and a Pew Research survey from April shows that largest concern people have about taxes is that the wealthy and corporations don’t pay enough. The GOP plan is nothing if not a huge tax cut for them.
Unless people see a significant change in their personal economic situations, they won’t give Republicans much credit. In North Carolina, the GOP cut taxes and have been crowing about their success as a model for the country. The country would be wise to take a look at the reaction of North Carolina voters.
Republicans in the state consistently cite the Tax Foundation’s assessment that North Carolina is now one of the most competitive states for business. Forbes Magazine named it the top state for business. North Carolina has reduced its debt to the federal government while replenishing its rainy day fund. Job growth in recent years has outpaced the nation as whole. Wages are increasing.
Given all that hype, why aren’t average North Carolinians excited about the federal tax reform? Well, most people in the state haven’t felt the benefits the state reform. The tax cuts went overwhelmingly to wealthiest people. The increase in sales tax on services like car repair cost poor people and the lower middle class as much as or even more than the income tax cuts helped. According a report by NC State economist Michael Walden, labor productivity and wage rates lag behind the nation as a whole and most of the jobs created have gone to either high or low paying jobs, while middle income jobs are still in decline.
People also felt the impact of tax cuts in other ways. Anybody with kids in public schools knows that the schools got less money because of the tax cuts. Per pupil spending dropped dramatically and schools across the state made cuts to programs like arts and music. The deaths of four prison guards underscored how underfunded and understaffed the prison system is. The budget cuts that offset the cost of tax cuts fell disproportionally on the shoulders of middle class families and left our state less secure.
Republicans in North Carolina site statistics and rankings to tout the success of their tax reform. However, most North Carolinians have seen little impact on their personal well-being. They have seen the impact of budget cuts, though, and they haven’t been positive. So, when Republicans in Washington tell the country about the pending tax reform, count North Carolinians as among those who are skeptical. They’ve heard the hype before and seen who benefits and who doesn’t. They know it’s not them.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >