The GOP is content to play small ball on taxation - because Republicans aren't demanding anything better

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Published by: Robert Laurie on Monday November 13th, 2017

Where are the big ideas?

The House tax bill apparently wants to tax the rich at an astronomical 46 percent. It also hammers away at popular deductions for medical costs, home sales, moving expenses, tuition assistance, daycare expenses and student loan interest.  Over in the Senate, they want to keep the death tax and delay corporate tax cuts at least a year, and they can't seem to agree on the size of the child tax credit. Neither bill claims to offer a tax overhaul that will benefit every American.  But - allegedly - they'll both "simplify" the process of filing.

Well, whoop-dee-doo.

Here's a news flash, folks.  At the end of the day "simplification" is nice but, for most people, it isn't going to be much more than a talking point. People vote with their wallets. They won't care how "simple" their taxes are if they end up having more of their hard-earned cash confiscated by the government. Keep in mind, this "simplification" won't even apply to everyone. So far, if you're self-employed or own a small business, you're not being presented with much that you'd call particularly exciting.  

This is what taxation small ball looks like.  For the first time in decades, the supposedly anti-tax, fiscally conservative GOP has complete control of the government and a president who will sign virtually anything if it means he gets a win.  Yet this is what we're being offered and, what's worse, everywhere you look you'll see conservatives defending it as "better than nothing."

Sorry.  Not good enough.  Not by a long shot.

Is there one prominent congressman arguing for a flat tax, or fair tax, or a "repeal and replace" of the 16th Amendment?  Is any elected official beating the drum that the last administration weaponized the IRS and maybe, just maybe, we should be drastically scaling back its power? In a country where the top 1 percent of earners pay around 90 percent of the taxes, is the GOP really going to be the party that says "hey, let's tax them a little more?" Apparently, they are. Anyone willing to make those arguments is shouted down as a "fraud," a "wacko bird," or a pie-in-the-sky dreamer.

Instead of embracing and championing those causes, the GOP has decided to enshrine the progressive tax scheme that their membership despises.  They've started to parrot the asinine - and false - talking point that you must "pay for" tax cuts, while they continue to support budgets that expand both debt and deficit. Republicans have gone silent on entitlement reform and virtually no one is talking seriously about any effort to start hacking away at the monstrous, bloodsucking, federal beast.

No, these aren't easy things to do. They may even be impossible right now, since we're saddled with a pile of turncoat Republicans who refuse to run the government according to their so-called principles. However, that doesn't mean you shut your mouth and stop trying. 

Voters didn't give the GOP complete control of the government so it could simper its way through "the easy stuff." The current Congress ran on promises of big change and big accomplishments but, a year after the last election, they have bupkiss to show for their time in D.C. Now, one gets a sense that they're desperate to claw their way out of their do-nothing pit, and they think "doing something" will make that happen. "Something" shouldn't be the objective.

If there's a lesson to be learned from the way President Trump operates, it's that you ask big up-front and scale back later.  Start with a massive request that you know is probably unattainable and then you can settle for something smaller during negotiations. The GOP is woefully incapable of understanding this.  They've started with a mealy-mouthed set of demands that play to Democrat media talking points, and they're now going to argue - against themselves, no less - from that sorry starting point.

To be fair, that means there's still time to salvage things. We still don't have concrete specifics of what will make the final tax bill. Maybe, miraculously, they'll turn it around. Perhaps, in the end, it really will be "better than nothing." Heck, if we're lucky, they might even let us read it before they pass it.  The last year doesn't instill great confidence, but you never know. They could pull it off.

But if "better than nothing" is the best the GOP can do - if that's going to be the new standard by which we measure their success or failure - their time in power will be short lived.

Rank-and-file Republicans need to demand better results, put constant pressure their representatives and senators, and stop making excuses because "our team" is on the field. If the wrong thing is being done, it shouldn't matter who's doing it. The GOP can no longer be allowed to get away with the abandonment of its base, its principles and its constitutional duty. It's time they realized that they've squandered the last bit of their supporters' patience. 

This is probably the last shot at real tax reform for a generation. They need to get it done and get it right. Fail, and they're going to find out that "our team" has become "our former team."

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