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Bill Straub: Republicans are on verge of adopting bad tax cut measure; they’ll lie — and get away with it

Senate Republicans are on the verge of adopting a tax cut measure that will make the old Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island look like the Garden of Eden and are looking to their always reliable playbook to sell this Krakatoa-sized disaster to an understandably doubting public.

Put simply, they will lie.

And if history is any guide, they stand a good chance of getting away with it – at least in the short run.

The GOP tax cut bill, as it stands now, has received what can best be described as a tepid reception. According to a Morning Consult/Politico poll released this week, only 24 percent of the registered voters questioned said the measure should be passed with minor changes while 19 percent assert lawmakers should just start all over again. Another 15 percent said the package should pass with major changes.

A paltry eight percent maintained it should be passed as is while another eight percent said Congress should just skip it altogether.

The reluctance is understandable. Every independent analysis has determined the Senate measure will benefit the wealthy while many of those it was supposed to help – middle class workers – will wind up with higher taxes. It will add at least $1.4 trillion to the budget deficit at a time when the national debt has reached $20.5 trillion and counting. And it contains provisions that will no longer allow individual filers to write off their state and local taxes, adding to their financial obligations.

It is a poor excuse for a tax reform bill. It’s a poor excuse for just about anything imaginable. Another survey, this by the University of Maryland Program for Public Consultation established that the elimination of deductions for state and local taxes is held in particularly low esteem with 69 percent of those questioned opposing the provision, including 55 percent of Republicans.
And the bad news rolls on. The Maryland survey also determined that 60 percent of those questioned oppose the proposal to reduce the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. But the most despised section deals with establishing a territorial tax system, which would eliminate the corporate income tax on profits made by subsidiaries in other countries. 

“Though they heard the arguments that this would make US corporations more competitive and encourage repatriation of profits, 68 percent opposed the idea,’’ the pollster said.

Then, of course, there’s the Republican Holy Grail buried within the bowels of the bill – Obamacare. Senate Republicans have proposed eliminating the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act – that section that requires almost everyone to obtain health insurance. That particular Obamacare provision helps keep premium costs affordable by ensuring that both healthy and sick people have health insurance. Repealing it will drive up premiums by 10 percent in 2019 and lead to 13 million fewer people having health insurance by 2025.

Taken as a whole, according to the Center for American Progress, this tax bill will “not only increase taxes for millions of middle-class families but would also have disastrous effects on people’s health care.’’

In short, it stinks.

But to Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root ‘n Branch’’ McConnell, of Louisville, this wretched cow pie smells like roses. It’s time, he said, “to take our foot off the brake and get our economy going again and growing again.’’

“Every American who has ever interacted with the IRS already knows that our tax code is broken,’’ McConnell said. “Rates are too high. The deductions and loopholes are too complex to understand. And it’s too easy for well-connected elites to take advantage. Passing tax reform is the single most important thing we can do right now to shift the economy into high gear and deliver much-needed relief to American families.’’

America does, indeed, need tax reform but the Republican proposal – concocted with no input from Democrats who will oppose it en masse – is, to site the title of a great book written by Neil Sheehan, “a bright, shining lie.’’ Analysts are nearly unanimous in their assessment that this abomination of trickle-down economics may help Corporate America but it will do nothing to assist those it is allegedly aimed at, further pushing the nation’s political/economic system toward an all-out oligarchy.

And nowhere does ol’ Root ‘n Branch mention the potential impact on the deficit and the debt. The Joint Committee on Taxation, a group of nonpartisan analysts responsible for estimating the costs of any tax bill, determined that the Senate GOP plan would bring the nation’s total debt to $32.4 trillion by 2027.

This, to put it bluntly, is insanity, and you will find few legitimate, independent economists who will disagree with that assessment. But it will likely pass once obstinate GOP lawmakers line up with the other lemmings to jump off the fiscal cliff.

And, ultimately, they’ll probably benefit, at least for a time. It comes right out of the anti-Obamacare playbook.

First understand the package was never put together with the needs of middle class Americans in mind. If that were the case Democrats would have been asked to at least provide some advice on its development. No, the whole thing was a sop to corporations and, particularly, the already wealthy who control the Republican Party lock, stock and barrel through the millions of dollars they invest in GOP candidates.

The measure will not only make the rich richer but provide the party with a desperately needed victory. Republican successes have been few and far between thus far in 2017 even though they control both chambers of Congress and the White House. The party’s true owners, the fabulously wealthy, who make the Robber Barons look like the Little Rascals, are growing impatient and threatening to hold back on the checks unless some progress in their behalf is shown. And this tax bill will be peachy keen.

The problem is what to do with voters who generally aren’t all that enthralled with the package and don’t like the fact that it helps the rich while leaving most of them on the sidelines. That’s where the lessons of Obamacare come in.

Republicans used Obamacare like a cudgel in the 2010 mid-term elections, using it to beat Democrats about the head and shoulders, ultimately turning the public against what proved to be a very successful program. The party picked up 63 seats to take control of the House that year along with a gain of six Senate seats, as a result of the attack on the ACA.

They did it the old fashioned way – by lying. Remember the specter of “death panels’’ in Obamacare – the “Lie of the Year’’ according to Politifacts? That the marketplaces were collapsing? That the whole Obamacare “mess’’ was a jobs killer? GOP lawmakers told lies about the law shamelessly and endlessly and it worked.

Get set for a new barrage of fabrications, this time in behalf of the tax bill. Candidates will tell voters of all stripe that they cut their taxes, whether true or not. That the measure sparked unlimited economic growth. That, before too long, the cuts will start paying for themselves and the deficit will, miraculously, drop instead of rise as the fake experts predict.

They will spread this line of hooey over the television, radio and internet using the manna provided by the true beneficiaries of this bill – the wealthy and the corporate interests – who are only too willing to provide sustenance to those in Washington willing to do their bidding.

Everything else will be washed away, like Johnstown PA after the dam burst. People will believe the Republicans actually cut their taxes in historic proportions. President (ugh! Oh dear lord!) Trump has already set the stage, promising wonder upon wonder if the bill passes and libeling anyone or anything who tells the truth as disseminating “fake news.’’

That’s how it will play. And all the while the republic will continue to erode.

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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