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On taxes, Republicans try a 'faith-based' approach to governing

A statue of the United States first President, George Washington, is seen under the Capitol dome in Washington January 2, 2013. The new 113th U.S. Congress convenes tomorrow on January 3, set to take a fresh crack at a number of issues, such as gun...
A statue of the United States first President, George Washington, is seen under the Capitol dome in Washington January 2, 2013. The new 113th U.S. Congress...

Two weeks ago, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" and made a bizarre argument. Eager to defend her support for her party's regressive tax plan, the Maine Republican, an ostensible moderate, insisted that tax cuts lead to growth, which leads to revenue, which "actually lowers the debt."

When Chuck Todd asked her for any kind of evidence to bolster her assumptions, Collins' case crumbled.

And yet, there she was on the Senate floor yesterday, once again making the argument we know to be wrong:

"Tax relief and reform will lift our economy, leading to higher wages for workers and more revenue for the government."

So, as she sees it, when the government takes in less revenue, it ends up with more revenue.

At face value, Susan Collins has no credible reason to vote for this thing. She urged GOP leaders not to lower the top rate, and they did it anyway. She asked them not to include repeal of the ACA's individual mandate in the bill, and they ignored her. The Maine Republican also said she expected a vote on some of her health care priorities before passing the tax plan, but settled for a legislative I.O.U. from her party's leaders. Whether the debt will be repaid is still unclear.

Collins can't even say she's doing this for her party, since the Republican plan would pass whether she votes for it or not.

And yet, here we are, preparing to watch Collins vote for her party's far-right bill, listening to her present arguments that are plainly at odds with all available evidence.

In this case, however, what can be proven appears to be far less significant than what Collins and other Republicans chose to believe. Hebrews 11:1 says faith is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

With this in mind, the GOP's tax bill is a striking example of faith-based policymaking.

Republicans say, for example, their tax plan will pay for itself. Confronted with evidence that they're wrong, these same GOP policymakers say they nevertheless have faith that their talking points are right, and the data and independent analyses are wrong.

They say their tax plan won't help the wealthy. They say middle-class Americans are the principal beneficiaries. They say those at the bottom of the income ladder won't pay more. They say they tried to make this a bipartisan effort. They say they followed regular order. They say trickle-down economics will super-charge economic growth.

And in each instance, when confronted with facts and substance, Republicans say they know what they want to believe -- and that's enough.

This makes for an exceedingly awkward policy debate. Democrats say, "Believe the evidence." To which Republicans respond, "Believe the party orthodoxy."

It ultimately doesn't matter what opponents of the plan can prove with arithmetic and distributional tables; this is about the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.

In this sense, when it comes to the GOP's tax crusade, the reality-based community didn't have a prayer.