For those who cover politics in the nation’s capital, most mornings are filled with invitations to assorted political events. Naturally, the invitations fall along partisan lines: Republican offices encourage media professionals to attend Republican events, while Democratic offices encourage journalists to attend Democratic events.
Yesterday, however, the circumstances were a little different. Ahead of Republican Sen. Rick Scott’s appearance at the Heritage Foundation, where he was scheduled to tout his controversial policy blueprint, the Democratic National Committee decided to lend a hand: Democrats encouraged reporters to attend the GOP leader’s event.
And why would the DNC help promote an appearance from the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee? There’s no great mystery here: The Florida senator’s plan, among other things, proposes tax hikes on tens of millions of Americans, and Democrats are eager to exploit this election year gift.
Naturally, this was a topic of interest at Scott’s event. Business Insider reported:
GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida took a fresh swing at critics in his own party on Thursday, saying that Republicans are adopting Democratic attacks against his sprawling agenda which includes a tax increase on the poorest Americans. “Democrats are lying about the plan, and Republicans are parroting what they’re saying,” Scott said at an event at the Heritage Foundation. “I’m not going to raise taxes on anybody.”
That’s certainly one way to look at the controversy. It’s just not the accurate way.
This isn’t a situation in which Republicans are parroting Democratic lies; this is a situation in which people are simply reading what Scott put in writing.
As regular readers know, it was in late February when the GOP senator, ignoring his party leaders’ wishes, unveiled a 31-page blueprint, outlining the far-right ideas he wants his party to pursue after this year’s midterm elections. One provision stood out: “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.
The senator said at the Heritage Foundation that he’s “not going to raise taxes on anybody,” but these words have meaning. If millions of Americans aren’t paying any federal income taxes, and Scott wants them to start paying federal income taxes, then he wants to raise their taxes.
That’s simply what “raise taxes” means. Indeed, it’s not even a partisan point: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also described Scott’s blueprint as a plan “that raises taxes on half the American people.” The Kentucky Republican reiterated the point again yesterday.
To hear Scott tell it, McConnell, Democrats, fact-checkers, economists, and the “militant left” are all mischaracterizing his plan. Reality tells a different story.
What’s more, it’s worth emphasizing that not all tax increases are created equal. President Joe Biden’s new White House budget, for example, proposes tax hikes on billionaires, which tend to be a popular idea with most voters.
The GOP senator’s tax plan is vastly more regressive. As a New York Times report explained overnight, “The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimated that ensuring all households pay at least $100 in income taxes would leave families making about $54,000 or less with more than 80 percent of the tax increase. Those making less than about $100,000 would shoulder 97 percent of the cost.”
Complicating matters for his party is the repetitive nature of Scott’s problem. In recent weeks, the Republican leader has done multiple national media interviews and faced predictable questions about his proposed tax hikes. He’s also repeatedly struggled with the questions. Each incident, to Democrats’ delight, keeps the story alive, creating a new round of headlines about the ambitious GOP senator and his plan to increase taxes on 57 percent of the adult population.
In other words, the problem for Republicans isn’t just that Scott wants to raise taxes on millions of Americans, it’s that he won’t stop talking about it.
To be sure, there are a great many other things wrong with Scott’s plan. But the broader conversation isn’t happening in large part because the Floridian hasn’t yet figured out how to clean up the most obvious mess he created.