The battle over the tax bill is all but over, assuming it doesn’t get lost on the way to the President’s desk. (And the way things have been going this week, don’t rule that out entirely.) For reasons which are clearly too complicated for my poor, addled brain to digest, the Democrats have somehow decided that lower taxes are the campaign rallying cry that will carry them to victory in the midterms. In fact, they’re planning what’s being described as “a year-long assault” on the bill. (WaPo)
Democrats, routed but unified against the tax bill, plan to make it the centerpiece of a midterm campaign — one that may play out in a growing economy where the worst predictions about the tax cuts fall flat. Republicans, who once hoped that Democrats would feel pressured to back the bill, now suggest that voters will learn that the Democrats misled them.
“If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said after the bill’s passage.
That Power Post entry from Dave Weigel gives us a hint that the folks at what is arguably the biggest megaphone the Democratic Party – the Washington Post – are getting nervous. Even Weigel is warning of the possibility that Chuck and Nancy’s worst predictions about the tax cuts [may] fall flat. But there are already far more blunt assessments coming from the WaPo.
James Hohmann was out with an assessment which came quickly on heels of Weigel’s warning. In a separate Power Post entry, Hohmann cautions that “The tax bill is likely to become more popular after passage.” He begins by running down a list of the most recent and decidedly dismal polling. One NBC – Wall Street Journal poll found that only 24% of respondents think the plan is a good idea and a plurality (37%) believe that the middle class will pay more. CNN’s survey finds an identical 37% think their families will be worse off because of the tax cuts. (!?)
But much like Weigel, Hohmann has looked at the math and admits the reality which most Americans will wake up to next year. (Emphasis in original)
But here’s the truth: 8 in 10 Americans will pay lower taxes next year, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the final bill. Only 5 percent of people will pay more next year. Mostly, those are folks who earn six figures and own expensive houses in places with high local taxes, such as New York and California…
I interviewed a dozen GOP operatives yesterday about how they plan to deal with this issue in 2018. They said the numbers right now are so bad that they can only get better. They freely acknowledged the head winds, but they see an opening to sell the cuts and insist that perceptions are still not fully baked. They’ve conducted focus groups and commissioned polls to figure out the talking points that are most likely to move the needle, and they’re planning multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns to drive those messages…
Republicans have a lot of upside potential with their own base. The NBC-WSJ poll finds that only 53 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of Trump general election voters currently back the tax bill. Even worse, just 28 percent of rural Americans and 29 percent of whites without a college degree think it is a good idea right now. Trump’s overall popularity may be at a record low in the survey, but these are constituencies he can persuade.
How, in any sane reading of the tea leaves, do you expect to spend the entire year running against a set of tax cuts which are going to result in more than three-quarters of the country taking home more money every payday? By arguing that it’s going to blow another hole in the deficit? Don’t make me laugh. That upsets a tiny fraction of voters (like yours truly) but we’ve been trying to sell that message for the past ten years. People don’t care.
This adds up to a serious warning sign for the Democrats. As people realize that the world didn’t end when Trump signed the tax bill and that they actually have more money to spend, pay down their debts or save, attitudes will be changing. And if there actually is a measurable increase in hiring and wages (this remains a significant “if” but it’s possible) then the Democrats’ attacks on the plan will not only be forgotten, but ridiculed. What’s the message that Chuck and Nancy are going to push next November? Vote for us and we’ll take that annoying, extra money back out of your paycheck?
And how did the Democrats wind up in this potential quagmire? Don’t shed many tears for them because they brought it on themselves and their allies in the majority of the mainstream media baited the trap for them. Because the tax cuts were a creation of the GOP and, more importantly, perceived as being endorsed by President Trump, the plan had to be opposed by default. If they could stop the tax plan it would be A Defeat For Trump, and that’s all that mattered to them. So the media hammered away at it endlessly, talking about tax breaks for the rich and corporate fat cats while somehow predicting that middle class families would be hurt. Why do you think the polling on the bill is so low? It’s not because it’s actually bad for most families, but rather because of the deafening media cacophony trying to convince everyone it would be the end of the world. So of course the polling for the bill stinks.
But it’s not the end of the world. The voters will go back to work after New Years is over, open up their paychecks and slowly but surely realize they’ve been deceived by the Democrats and the press. And as Hohmann points out, the polling numbers have pretty much nowhere to go but up. And if they go up too far heading into the summer, Democrats will once again be left scrambling for a message. You brought this on yourselves, guys. No sympathy for you from this corner.