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Bill Straub: Mitch McConnell’s dilemma — pursue tax cuts, keep job and worry about disaster later

Here comes Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root ‘n Branch’’ McConnell, riding into town in the lead wagon of the Snake Oil Caravan with a wink and a promise that the tax cut legislation he’s about to unveil is good for what ails all those in the gathering crowd.

This amazing package — “she walks, she talks she crawls on her belly like a reptile,’’ to cite Ray Stevens – will not only pep up a flagging economy but ensure ol’ Mitch that he can retain the leadership post he has coveted for what seems like eons, even though the elixir he’s hawking will do far more damage than good to those buying into his spiel.

McConnell, of Louisville, desperately needs a tax cut bill. He’s dangling at the end of his rope. His tenure as majority leader has been, at least thus far, an abysmal failure. He historically fell short of repealing the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, “root and branch’’ as he endlessly promised. The upper chamber’s accomplishments during the 114th Congress, where the GOP controls both legislative bodies and the White House, have proved meager.

Various conservative groups, like FreedomWorks, are calling for his head. A survey from Harvard-Harris poll found that 56 percent of Republican voters want him to resign as majority leader. He has been warring behind the scenes with President Trump, who hinted at one point that he might ultimately join the Ditch Mitch crowd.

Two caucus members McConnell could generally count on, Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-AZ, are engaged in a firefight with the current occupant of the White House and have announced they will not run for re-election, opening the door for Tea Party types who likely aren’t enamored with McConnell’s leadership abilities. Roy Moore, a certified wacko favored to win an open Senate seat in Alabama, has already stated plainly that he won’t support ol’ Root ‘n Branch.

So a tax bill, which has replaced health care atop the GOP agenda, could prove McConnell’s savior. And he’s treating it as if he’s selling untaxed Marlboros out of the trunk of his car.

A tax measure hasn’t been introduced yet but early revelations about its contents already establish its ridiculousness. Republicans early on talked about pushing for tax reform, a noble objective, creating a system that is both simpler and fairer that closes outrageous loopholes and is revenue neutral. That, in fact, is a goal opposition Democrats could embrace.

But the result is anything but real reform — a massive tax cut, aimed at the wealthy, that the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the Tax Policy Center estimate would add at least $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade. If that’s not enough to rattle your teeth, the Tax Policy Center further maintains that the wealthiest one percent of households – one could assume that includes the Trump estate — would collect 80 percent of the benefits.

This is what passes for reform among congressional Republicans these days.

The entire package is built on lies. Trump has insisted over and over again that the United States is one of the world’s highest taxed nations. In reality it is the third lowest among developed nations as far as the effective tax rate is concerned. The GOP further asserts that its plan will be a boon to the middle class when, in reality, estimates show that after-tax income for middle class families will actually decline by about one percent.

Meanwhile, those among the highest five percent of wage earners will realize a 9 percent jump.

Yet there was our boy Mitch taking to the Senate floor the other day to extol the virtues of this sham.

“In short, we want to take more money out of Washington’s pockets and put more in yours,’’ he said without a hint of irony.


Given this background, how is the GOP rationalizing this ghastly display of incompetence? Well, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a product of the Peter Principle if there ever was one, with a “combination of tax reform and regulatory relief, this country can return to higher levels of GDP growth, helping to erase our fiscal deficit.’’ The plan, he added, “will help place the nation on a path to improved fiscal health and create prosperity for generations to come.”

That’s right, folks, they’re reviving the old canard that cutting taxes will lead to the sort of economic growth that will eliminate the deficit, which, during the recently passed fiscal year, reached $666 billion, a devilish number indeed.

This, of course, is silly and may ultimately carry tragic consequences if it comes to fruition. It marks a return to the disreputable “trickle-down’’ theory of economics, meaning that Republican lawmakers are counting on nothing short of magic to right the nation’s financial ship.

Any time Republican lawmakers try the big con on economic matters to benefit the rich at the expense of the not-so-rich they pull out the old trickle down mumbo-jumbo that has been proven time after time to be a joke. Tax cuts simply don’t pay for themselves and the promise of an economy shooting through the roof is never realized. But it sounds good and it might even help their rich pals who were sorely disappointed in the failure to kill Obamacare, which cost them plenty.


Here’s an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities regarding the tax cuts implemented under President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003:

“High-income taxpayers benefited most from these tax cuts, with the top 1 percent of households receiving an average tax cut of over $570,000 between 2004-2012 (increasing their after-tax income by more than 5 percent each year). Despite promises from proponents of the tax cuts, evidence suggests that they did not improve economic growth or pay for themselves, but instead ballooned deficits and debt and contributed to a rise in income inequality.’’

According to the Center, those tax cuts, which were supposed to pay for themselves, wound up resulting in one-third of the national debt.

Want more?

Go to Kansas. Under former Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican who left Topeka to become the U.S. ambassador at-large for international religious freedom before the rail arrived to ride him out on, the Sunflower State slashed what was already a puny tax rate, deep-sixed the income tax for most owner-operated businesses and cut government services.

Brownback promised at the time that his maneuvers would provide “a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy.’’

You can guess the rest. Economic growth lagged behind other states in the region and the nation as a whole. Deficits mounted, leading to further cuts in state services. Education funding was reduced to such a degree that the Kansas Supreme Court finally determined it was unconstitutional. The Kansas legislature, controlled by Republicans, finally came to its senses earlier this year and raised taxes, overriding a Brownback veto.

So why is McConnell proceeding down a garden path that he knows is going to crumble someday? Political expediency. Real tax reform is hard and requires compromise. It would be difficult, if not impossible, given the current GOP make-up in the upper chamber, consisting of the crazies and the craziers, to agree on a plan. Another failure, coupled with the Obamacare debacle, would probably result in his demise as majority leader with Trump carrying the torch.

But tax cuts? That’s another matter. Most Republicans will walk through a mine field on their hands, blindfolded, to cut taxes and to hell with the consequences. Given that, Senate Republicans will gladly ditch any obligation toward budgetary responsibility to grab the big, shiny object.

So for Mitch it’s a simple formula – pursue tax reform, fail, lose job, versus pursue tax cuts, hide behind phony-baloney calculations, succeed, keep job and worry about the resulting disaster later.

Now which one do you think our boy is going to choose?

Washington correspondent Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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One Comment

  1. T. Overton says:

    Finally some truth about that duplicitous j*** a**!

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