It’s not just liberals who dislike the provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Thirty-five percent of conservative Republicans think we should raise corporate taxes. Less than half favor a corporate tax cut. Self-described moderate Republicans oppose regressive tax cuts even more strongly. Congressional Republicans are marching like dull rodents toward a bill that displeases many of their most devoted supporters.
One needn’t strain to understand this bill’s unpopularity. In the words of blogger Kevin Drum, the TCAJ makes “appalling” tax policy. At the core of the bill is a twelve-figure corporate tax cut. The vast majority of economists doubt it will grow the economy. The huge, staggeringly unpopular corporate reduction is complemented by a direct gift to the Trump Organization in the form of a “pass-through” tax cut, and the coup de grace is an end to estate taxes. In all, the least popular first-year president on record will pocket a billion dollars. Small wonder that he is one of the bill’s few fans.
Rational politicians would be deeply wary of a large, widely opposed reform package. We have a precedent for this. As the process of writing the ACA dragged on, Democratic politicians began to search for an exit strategy. Even liberal stalwart Barney Frank thought it was a “mistake” to press forward. His reasoning was simple: Changing healthcare is always unpopular, and Democrats would pay a heavy price for passing a reform bill. One would think the Party that benefited from the Democrats’ unpopular drive for reform would have imbibed the lessons of 2010. Instead, they are executing a copycat suicide.
And make no mistake, “tax reform” will cost Republicans dearly. The reason is simple: Voters revolt against bills that harm their everyday lives. Tax policy definitely falls in that category, as we saw when Margaret Thatcher’s “Poll Tax” (not to be confused with Jim Crow voter suppression) killed her career. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will hit voters squarely on April 15, and they will not like it. Especially in the middle-class districts that could devastate Republicans.
The TCAJ is a political disaster in plain sight. How Republicans convinced themselves not to see it is a mystery worthy of the most brilliant psychologists.