It was almost exactly a year ago when House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) published an item in which he complained that the federal tax code is “too complicated” because it has seven tax brackets. He and his fellow Republicans would create a “better way.”
On a substantive level, the Speaker’s argument didn’t really make any sense, but even putting that aside, a year later, Ryan’s tax plan is ready to pass. It features seven tax brackets – eight if you include the 0% bracket.
Just last month, the Wisconsin congressman boasted, “Republicans are unrigging the system, making it so simple and fair you will be able to do your taxes on a form the size of a postcard.” Again, as a matter of policy, Ryan’s pitch was rather foolish, and as a matter of delivering on promises, this is another area in which the GOP plan falls short.
The Republican tax bill does not pass the postcard test.
It leaves nearly every large tax break in place. It creates as many new preferences for special interests as it gets rid of. It will keep corporate accountants busy for years to come. And no taxpayer will ever see the postcard-size tax return that President Trump laid a kiss on in November as Republican leaders launched their tax overhaul effort.
As the debate over the GOP proposal has unfolded, it quickly became clear that the Republican tax plan fails by progressive standards: it’s stacked to benefit the wealthy; it raises taxes on millions of middle-class households; it will leave millions without health care benefits; and it exacerbates wealth inequality.
What’s less appreciated is the fact that the Republican plan is also a failure by Republican standards. If we play by the rules the GOP set for itself, the party is falling far short of its own priorities.
NBC News’ First Read team explained a couple of weeks ago that going into the process, Republicans made four core promises for their tax plan: (1) it wouldn’t increase the debt; (2) it’s designed to benefit the middle class; (3) the wealthiest Americans, including Donald Trump, wouldn’t be the primary beneficiaries; and (4) it would supercharge the economy.
We already know GOP policymakers have failed on promises 1 through 3, and according to independent economic assessments, Republicans are going to fall short on 4, too.
Vox ran a related piece in late November, noting that the GOP tax plan is pretty much the opposite of what Trump and other Republicans vowed it would be. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, meanwhile, put together a list of broken GOP promises on this plan – and the list isn’t short.
There’s a sense of déjà vu surrounding this. When Republicans were putting together a health care plan, the GOP promised universal coverage, with lower costs, and protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. Then Republicans actually put pen to paper and came up with legislation that didn’t meet any of their commitments. Now, it’s happening again.
Except this time, the GOP plan that fails by the GOP’s own terms is probably going to pass.