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Tax cuts in the Republican health care plan are the 'central' issue

Tax cuts in the GOP plan appear to be one of the parts of the legislation that the bill's architects prefer not to talk about.
An employee at a money changer counts $100 bills.
An employee at a money changer counts $100 bills.

Jesse Lee, a former official in the Obama White House, wrote on Twitter yesterday, "I say this in all honesty: you could easily write a bill with ideas from both parties that would fix issues in ACA & make Trump look great." This happens to be entirely true.

Indeed, it's the secret hiding in plain sight. If Republicans were serious about identifying and addressing the Affordable Care Act's real shortcomings, they could work out a deal with Democrats, stabilize the marketplaces, offer incentives to insurers, and make meaningful improvements to the system. This would be an incredibly popular move, and more importantly, it would help a lot of people.

But it wouldn't satisfy any of the Republicans' ideological goals, starting with the GOP's raison d'etre. The Washington Post's Matt O'Brien had a good piece yesterday on the central pillar of the party's health care plan.

The Senate health-care plan isn't a health-care plan. It's a tax cut.That's clear enough from how little thought it puts into actually stabilizing insurance markets versus how much it does into showering the rich with as much money as possible. Indeed, it would go so far as to retroactively cut the capital gains tax -- something, remember, that's supposed to be about incentivizing future investment -- in an apparent bid to get people to create jobs six months ago.

That may sound like a joke, but it's quite real. The Senate health plan actually includes a provision that cuts taxes with an effective date of Dec. 31, 2016.

It's part of the broader plan to cut taxes, primarily on the wealthy, by hundreds of billions of dollars according to yesterday's report from the Congressional Budget Office.

I mention this in large part because it appears to be one of the parts of the legislation that the bill's architects prefer not to talk about. White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has insisted the tax cuts in the GOP plan are "not central" to the policy debate. Why not? Because he says so.

In early March, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was asked about the tax breaks in the Republican legislation, and the Republican leader replied, "I'm not that concerned about it." Of course, whether or not the House Speaker is "concerned" is of no real consequence.

To be sure, none of this is surprising, but it makes an indefensible piece of legislation almost comically malevolent. The Republican blueprint would impose tangible harm on millions of families, and it would do so while handing massive tax breaks to the wealthy and the health care industry.

If anyone has come up with a good defense for such a policy, they've hidden it well.