But what is heading toward him is not the kind of reform that can command broad political support, and thus stand the test of possible electoral defeat in 2018 and 2020. It’s a scandalous expression of upper-class and Sunbelt chauvinism that will melt away within weeks of the next Democratic electoral success. Even if it becomes law, as still seems improbable in the face of the plan’s terrible poll numbers, what firm would venture a long-term investment based on tax changes so likely unsustainable?
Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s old rule of thumb for bills before the Senate—“They pass 70-30, or they fail”—no longer applies. Seventy-vote majorities no longer exist in this hyperpartisan era. The Affordable Care Act passed with only 60 votes. But the spirit of the rule lingers. By refusing to hold hearings and forestalling Congressional Budget Office scoring, Republicans have moved fast. But they have not convinced the public mind, to recycle an antique but still meaningful phrase. They may win a vote. They have not won the argument. What they are doing will not last, and will therefore not deliver any of the promised benefits. It’s the equivalent of a 1980s-style corporate raid, that will yield a hasty and morally dubious windfall for a few insiders while damaging the longer-term economic health of the larger enterprise.