It is early Thursday morning as I write this article. What I am calling the Trump Tower Tax Cut was scheduled to be unveiled in the House of Representatives yesterday. Two things happened on Wednesday neither of which was the unveiling. They will form the basis of today’s article. Let’s explore.
The plan, which for weeks has received lavish praise from President Trump, still did not exist in complete form as of Wednesday so there was nothing to unveil. Second, it didn’t have a name.
As elements of the plan leaked (the only thing we had seen in writing was a few bullet points on a one pager) the lobbyists started to enter the picture. (I am waiting for Trump to say “Who knew tax reform was so complicated?”).
One element in particular that caused problems was the plan to eliminate deducting state and local taxes from the federal income tax return. The Republicans didn’t have much of a problem with that provision because it disproportionately had a negative impact in blue states. The National Association of Home Builders begged to differ and that caused a problem. Home builders, realtors and developers tend to vote and donate Republican.
As other elements of the plan become public other interest groups will certainly have objections, many of them will be parts of the Republican constituency. In the NIMBY spirit, everyone is for tax loopholes being plugged as long as that doesn’t include their loophole.
The Trump Tower Tax Cut was problematic from its inception. The challenge was to generate a giant tax cut for those who already had more money than they needed and “financing” it by blowing a huge hole in the social safety net and increasing both the deficit and the national debt but camouflaging that part of it. Republicans are still trying to repeal the New Deal and Great Society so the social safety net cuts were not a problem for them, but increasing the deficit and debt defied Republican orthodoxy.
Now to the most surprising part: the naming of the bill. The story goes that Speaker Paul Ryan offered Trump the chance to name the bill. Trump has a reputation as a branding expert and a huge ego so why not? Trump wants it called the Cut Cut Cut Act. This is not a joke but it became an instant additional headache for Ryan. Republicans are good at very few things but one of them is naming legislation. Time and time again they come up with harmful legislation that has a motherhood and apple pie name. The Cut Cut Cut Act of 2017 is not one of those instances!
The yet to be unveiled but highly heralded by the White House legislation was already in trouble as was illustrated by none other than Trump himself on Wednesday. In a statement to the press he said he was leaving Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Economic Advisor Gary Cohn behind when he departed for Asia. Their charge was to get the tax bill passed. Trump made it clear that he would blame them if it did not pass.
The Republicans have long employed what I call the Charlie Brown Defense: Why is everybody always picking on me? Trump has taken it to a new level in that he not only won’t take blame, he will tell you who he is blaming his failures on. Wednesday’s quip to the press perfected on that method and I am dubbing it the Charlie Brown Defense 2.0. It has all the elements of the original but now includes a preemptive blame. What happened to Harry Truman, “The buck stops here” style leadership?
If the legislation gets unveiled today and under which name are still unknowns as of this writing. (You will know by the time you read this.). If the Trump administration were a movie with a highly skilled director he or she would have exclaimed “Cut, cut, cut!” Long ago!
This article was written well in advance of publishing to accommodate my travel schedule,
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