On Sunday, CNN’s “State of the Union" host Jake Tapper put Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in an uncomfortable position, forcing him to acknowledge that the middle-class tax cuts in the GOP bill are a good thing:
TAPPER: Next year, 91% of middle-income Americans will receive a tax cut. Isn't that a good thing?
SANDERS: Yeah, it is a very good thing, and that's why we should have made the tax breaks for the middle class permanent. But what the Republicans did is make the tax breaks for corporations permanent, the tax cuts for the middle class temporary, and, according to the Tax Policy Center ... at the end of ten years, 83% of the benefits go to the top 1%, 60% of the benefits go to the top one tenth of 1%. Meanwhile, at the end of 10 years, well over 80 million Americans will be paying more in taxes.
Sanders made sure to note that the tax cuts for middle-class Americans will expire by 2025, while the corporate tax cut is permanent. This talking point has been repeated by nearly every prominent Democratic politician and pundit for weeks.
Progressives want Americas to believe that the GOP tax plan was structured to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class. However, key details that contextualize the bill are being deliberately left out of the conversation. If progressives succeed with this manipulation by omission, tax-reform-as-class-warfare can be used as a weapon in the 2018 midterm elections.
The GOP tax bill needed to address two things in its design — reconciliation, and the Byrd Rule.
Newsweek’s Nicole Goodkind explains:
Each year Congress has the option of adding special rules to their budget, known as reconciliation instructions. This powerful tool allows Senators to pass legislation with just 50 votes instead of the usual 60-vote threshold — and also makes the bill not subject to filibuster. Spending and tax bills, including this one, are usually passed under the protection of reconciliation.
But the process is governed by the Byrd Rule, which limits the kind of legislative provisions allowed. Under the Byrd rule ... a provision is considered extraneous if it increases the deficit beyond a 10-year window, makes changes to Social Security or does not produce a change in revenues.
Due to the Party-line nature of the GOP tax plan, and the fact that Republicans only have 52 seats in the United States Senate, a simple majority vote was an absolute necessity. In order to comply with the Byrd Rule, Senate Republicans had to find ways of limiting the tax bill’s addition to the deficit.
Scott A. Hodge of the Tax Foundation writes:
... the Finance Committee faced a choice: It could sunset all or some of the tax cuts at the end of ten years, in the same way that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were designed to expire in 2011 and 2013, or offset those future tax cuts by raising other taxes or closing additional loopholes.
The GOP likely chose to sunset individual tax rates rather than corporate tax rates because, according to Hodge, corporate tax cuts do more for economic growth. However, as many Republican lawmakers have pointed out, it’s highly unlikely that politicians from either Party would allow tax cuts for the middle class to expire in 2025. A more probable scenario is that the individual cuts in the GOP tax bill will be extended prior to their expiration.
The GOP tax plan is far from perfect, but progressives would have Americans believe that it’s terrible and downright immoral. However, there is a method to the madness, and it requires a bit more than a 30-second talking point to uncover.