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The GOP's tax plan rollout burdened by familiar missteps

Republicans made some important mistakes from the start on health care. They're making them again on taxes.
Image: US President Donald J. Trump meets with members of the House Ways and Means Committee
epa06228292 US President Donald J. Trump (C) meets with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R), Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member...

The Republican effort to overhaul the nation's health care system obviously hasn't turned out well for the party. One of the key questions now is what lessons, if any, GOP leaders have learned from their most recent fiasco.

Given the rollout of the Republicans' tax "framework" this week, there's reason to believe the party is repeating some of its more glaring mistakes.

A familiar closed-door process

The GOP health care proposals, in both chambers, were written in secret, with a small group of like-minded partisans crafting plans behind closed doors. This made bipartisanship practically impossible, and limited the ability of those affected by the legislation to buy into the proposed reforms.

On tax policy, Republicans are doing ... the exact same thing. In fact, just yesterday, Gary Cohn, the president's top economic adviser, told reporters, "Our opening offer and our final offer are on the table." Despite Donald Trump's talk that the tax plan could receive bipartisan backing, Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs chief, was part of the secretive "Big Six" talks that were limited to Republicans.

Unrealistic promises the GOP can't keep

One of the most amazing things about the Republicans' health care pitch was that the party promised that their plans would reflect Democratic priorities: Americans could take comfort in the fact that there'd be universal coverage, protections for those with pre-existing conditions, low consumer costs, and an emphasis on protecting families and their interests.

All of this, of course, was intended to make the Republicans' pitch more politically palatable, but it failed spectacularly when the public realized GOP officials had no intention of keeping any of their promises.

The rollout of the tax plan seems eerily familiar. The GOP "framework," Republicans insist, is also shaped to reflect Democratic priorities, with a focus on the middle class and small businesses, not the wealthy. All of this can be done, GOP leaders assure us, in a fiscally responsible way.

It's taken very little time to realize that the pitch is a sham: the bulk of the benefits would go to corporations and the very wealthy, while some middle-class households might even see their taxes go up, not down. What's more, Republicans have no idea how to pay for any of this.

Many of Trump's biggest supporters get left behind

It quickly became apparent during the health care fight that many of the Americans who'd suffer most under the Republican agenda were the same Americans who voted for Donald Trump. This wasn't lost on the president: when a Fox News interviewer reminded him that his own plan would punish "counties that voted for you" more than areas that didn't, Trump replied, "Oh, I know. I know."

With the launch of the GOP tax plan, Trump is not only lying to many of these voters -- he said the proposal wouldn't benefit him personally, which is ridiculously untrue -- he's also steering the bulk of the benefits in an acutely regressive direction. As the Washington Post's Greg Sargent explained yesterday:

...Trump's plan is very specific about how it would benefit top earners and corporations and very vague and nonspecific about how it would help lower-income earners. Trump's empty promise to his working- and middle-class supporters is being used to sell tax cuts that will likely shower large benefits on the wealthy -- himself included. [...]The point here is not that this should reflect badly on Trump supporters. They of course may disagree that all these things operate against their interests, or they may have plenty of other reasons to continue backing him anyway. Rather, the point is that the arguments that Trump and his administration are making to them on all these fronts are not being made in good faith, as if Trump believes his own supporters can be lied to or betrayed with great ease. Never mind whether they're "deplorables" -- Trump himself is treating them like a bunch of suckers.

And on the heels of the health care fight, it's not the first time.