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Why Rick Scott struggles to defend his proposed GOP tax hikes

The Florida Republican keeps doing interviews about his proposed income tax increases. They keep going badly.


Sen. Rick Scott is clearly determined to defend his far-right policy blueprint. The trouble for the Florida Republican is that he hasn’t quite figured out how best to do that. Politico reported:

Sen. Rick Scott sparred with “Fox News Sunday” host John Roberts over the contents of Scott’s recently released “Rescue America” plan. Discussing the plan, the Florida Republican accused Roberts of repeating Democratic talking points while Roberts insisted he was quoting directly from the language in Scott’s own 11-step policy plan.

In fact, the Fox News host literally read from the text and put it on screen for viewers, noting not only that Scott called for higher taxes on tens of millions of Americans, but also endorsed forcing Congress to re-approve every federal law every five years.

“So that would raise taxes on half of Americans and potentially sunset programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security,” the host noted. “Why would you propose something like that in an election year?”

Scott replied, “That’s, of course, the Democrat [sic] talking points.” Roberts, understandably incredulous, quickly responded, “No, it’s in the plan! It’s in the plan! ... Hang on, senator, it’s not a Democratic talking point, it’s in the plan.”

That’s true. As regular readers know, it’s about a month since the Florida senator, ignoring his fellow GOP leaders’ wishes, unveiled a 31-page blueprint, outlining the far-right ideas he wants his party to pursue after this year’s midterm elections.

The Florida Republican literally put his idea in writing: “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.”

In other words, tens of millions of American adults currently don’t pay federal income taxes because they don’t make enough money to qualify. As we’ve explained before, Scott, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, has proposed changing that: He envisions a tax system in which those who don’t make enough money would have to pay more than they pay now.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but that’s what “tax increase” means. It’s not even an especially partisan point: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also described Scott’s blueprint as a plan “that raises taxes on half the American people.”

Yesterday, Scott added, in reference to his blueprint, “Go through it, everybody’s not going to agree with everything, 120 policy points.”

In other words, when pressed on his proposed tax hikes, the GOP senator effectively suggested his plan has other elements that might not be as unpopular — which wasn’t much of a defense.

As for the sunset provisions, which would require Congress to re-approve federal laws every five years, Scott added yesterday, “Also in the plan it says we ought to every year talk about exactly how we’re going to fix Medicare and Social Security.”

That’s not entirely right. Medicare and Social Security are only referenced once in the Republican’s blueprint, and it was in a sentence that said Congress should be required to “issue a report every year telling the public what they plan to do when Social Security and Medicare go bankrupt.”

For one thing, Social Security and Medicare are not actually going bankrupt. For another, there’s a difference between saying the plan calls for fixes to the programs and the plan’s actual text.

But what I find especially interesting about all of this is that Scott keeps accepting media invitations, keeps facing the same questions, and keeps struggling to defend the blueprint that he voluntarily released to the public.

A month ago, the Floridian failed to tell the truth about his own plan during a Fox News interview. Two weeks ago, he fumbled his way through an NPR interview, saying over and over again that he’s “not going to raise taxes,” despite the obvious fact that his plan calls for half the country to pay more in income taxes. Yesterday, he struggled again.

Scott has some options here. He can, for example, abandon this part of his agenda. Alternatively, he can try to make the case on the merits for higher income taxes.

But to keep going on the air and denying the plain text of his own blueprint is bizarre.