I was thrilled yesterday to see that the great Elizabeth Drew has contributed her thoughts on the grotesque tax bill(s) that have just passed through both houses of Congress (in slightly different forms that will presumably soon be merged into one) to overhaul our poor dear nation’s tax code.
I recall Drew’s glory years, covering Washington for the New Yorker and writing books. In her 80s now, she writes less often, frequently for the New York Review of Books. But she brought her A-game to this TNR piece, which focused equally on the substance of the bills and on the process by which they have gotten this far. (There is still, by the way, some small reason to hope that the whole hideous deal will fall apart in the effort to reconcile the two versions, but don’t bet on it.)
The Party of Lincoln (sob) is very, very motivated to get this done, which leads me right in to the first of several excerpts from Drew’s piece that I pass along to those who decline to read the whole thing. Wrote Drew:
Major donors, fed up with the Republicans’ failure to repeal Obamacare or accomplish any other significant legislation, threatened to close their checkbooks as they faced the possibility that the party, led by an unpopular president, was headed into the 2018 midterm elections with none of their legislative dreams fulfilled. …
Donor pressure helps explain the apparent ease with which the Republicans gave most of the rewards of the bill to the wealthiest 5 percent and abandoned their base. Trump, the populist nouveaux, would have to keep his base loyal by feeding them gimcracks about kneeling (black) NFL players and ‘crooked Hillary Clinton.’
In backing the House and Senate tax bills, Trump, who has set great store by at least appearing to remain faithful to his campaign promises when it came to the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord, and pushing for the wall, readily broke his promises that the rich wouldn’t get a tax cut and that his cuts wouldn’t increase the deficit. …
Perhaps the Trump base would remain unaware that their tax cut would end in 2025 and then transmogrify into a tax increase. By contrast, the deep cut in corporate tax rates—the centerpiece of the bill as far as the Republicans are concerned — would remain permanent. …”
Another of those who had opposed the Obamacare repeal bill, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, had already been mollified by a provision that would open up the Alaska wildlife preserve to drilling for oil — a subject of a bitter, years-long fight.
(Me: Seriously, what is a provision to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, doing in a tax bill?) Back to Drew, now on the process):
The collapse of the legislative process was complete. A bill affecting all parts of the economy was the subject of no hearings at all in either the House or the Senate. The same thing was true of the earlier Republican attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Both pieces of legislation, affecting millions and millions of people’s lives, were rushed through their respective chambers — but the tax bill was moved even faster so as to avoid giving people time to mobilize against it. The lapse of time before the Senate brought up Obamacare repeal allowed for such mobilization and the bill died in the Senate. That wasn’t to be allowed to recur in the case of the tax bill.
I promised above to offer up one snarky question, in the form of a proposal of my own. But, snarky or not, it’s a real question.
You have no doubt read previously that the business tax cuts are enacted forever, while the tax benefits that might accrue to some members of the middle- and working-classes are set to expire after a few years. Worry not, the bill’s backers assure us. This is a mere technicality to meet some arcane rules. The middle- and working-class breaks will be extended when they are due to expire, after the bill has had a chance to produce stimulative magic that will enable such an extension possible without bankrupting future generations.
My question/proposal: How about switching the bill, so the tax relief for the middle and working classes are permanent, while the corporate tax breaks are set to expire?
Oh, and by the way, Drew’s New Republic piece is titled “How Republicans Killed the Legislative Process.”