Democrats Tax Reform Attacks Fall Flat

Democrats have been plotting their approach to stop the GOP’s tax reform efforts well before Republicans had conceived of, much less introduced, their plans.

Way back in December of 2016, almost one year ago, and long before Republicans introduced their guiding principles for tax reform, much less their bicameral framework, much less the actual text of the legislation, Democrats were crafting their strategy to paint the GOP plan as a sop to the elite at the expense of the middle class. Here’s Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur reporting on Democrats preemptive maneuvering for Bloomberg:

Congressional Democarats say they’ll try to thwart Republican plans to overhaul the U.S. tax code by portraying them as a boon for the rich that betrays President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promise to fight for working Americans.

Neal and others say they’ll zero in on upper-income tax breaks pitched by Trump and House leaders in an attempt to make it politically difficult for Republicans to support large parts of the emerging plans. Their initial comments suggest that the 115th Congress, which convenes Jan. 3 with a Republican-led agenda of instituting a broad tax overhaul and repealing Obamacare, will be peppered with debate over income inequality.

Given that, it wasn’t exactly a surprise that Democrats ignored the details of Republicans’ plan and stuck to their “Robin Hood in reverse” script. But the execution of the plan has been, well, sloppy.

It began after Democrats were tripping over themselves to peddle the lie that the GOP bill would be a $794 tax increase for “middle class families earning less than $86,000.” The specificity of the numbers gives them a gloss of credibility. But how does that comport with the prominent reporting that the bill would be a significant tax cut for the middle class? Here, as an example, is what TIME had to say:

Data compiled by The New York Times show that individuals with incomes between $19,050 and $77,400 would be taxed at 12% under the plan, rather than the current 15%. Those Americans would also likely benefit from the expanded standard deduction and the increase in child tax credits, according to Nicole Kaeding, an economist with the Center for State Tax Policy at the Tax Foundation. “There are a number of ways that these sort of individuals would likely see a tax cut,” she says.

It turns out that Democrats had mixed up their talking point. They were relying on a report by Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee which found that there would be some households that earn up to $86,100 that would see an increase. That nuance was lost when Democrats began to spew their anti-middle class message, leading the Washington Post Fact Checker to put them back in line:

In their haste to condemn the GOP tax plan, Democrats have spread far and wide the false claim that families making less than $86,100 on average will face a hefty tax hike. Actually, it’s the opposite. Most families in that income range would get a tax cut. Any Democrat who spread this claim should delete their tweets and make clear they were in error.

Undeterred, Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez took to CNBC to continue peddling the same tired talking points that Democrats have been peddling for years.

“So once again, this is a great day for the 1 percent, and for everybody else it’s a terrible day,” Perez said after bumbling his way through a litany of talking points.

Perez’s schtick was so apparent that the CNBC host was left with no choice but to plead, “Get off the talking points, talk the economics Tom.”

Of course, Perez couldn’t. And neither could Democrats during the committee markup of the legislation, leading CNN to report that “Democrats’ messaging appeared to be all over the board.” That’s what happens when you’re trying to recite talking points apropos of nothing. It would be one thing if Democrats were substantively attacking the underlying policies in the bill, but they’re not, they’re just saying the same things that they’ve always said in the hopes of provoking class resentment.

No one disputes the need for tax reform and a more streamlined, more competitive tax code. If Democrats were honest with themselves—and with voters—they’d find ways to strengthen the legislation, not make up straw man arguments just so they can knock them down.


Photo credit: 401(K) 2013