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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Greatest Christmas gift of all – the GOP finally does something right

If you’re a believer in not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good then the Republican Party’s well hashed-over tax plan looks to be just the thing for you.

That’s largely because a quick glance at the nitty gritty of the bill (set to go before Congress for final votes this week) reveals that it is hardly perfect – but it’s still decent enough to qualify for “good.” Hence, Republican Trump tax cutslawmakers should feel reassured in giving it a “yes” vote.

Needless to say the GOP has been promising for years that having a Republican in the White House would make a noticeable difference in their lives. At last they’ve put together something to place under America’s Christmas trees and it couldn’t come soon enough.

Brian Faler, Seung Min Kim and Colin Wilhelm of Politico reported over the weekend, “The agreement caps a remarkable legislative stretch in Congress. Facing the prospect of having no major policy achievements in the first year of a new administration, Republicans have pushed the plan through Congress with blinding speed, and in the face of both Trump’s unpopularity and polling showing much of the public is sour on the proposal. They unveiled the initial draft of the plan barely one month ago.

“Along the way, lawmakers have been willing to accept things that, in the past, would have had them at each other’s throats. They’re settling for a much higher top individual income tax rate — 37 percent — than many wanted, and their plans to expend the child tax credit would effectively excuse millions of low-income people from paying federal income taxes.”

Funny -- with the plan almost certain to pass (assuming there are enough Republicans physically able to vote for it) Democrats and their media friends don’t have anything better to throw at the Republicans than emphasizing how “quick” the process moved, as if the GOP just tossed a stack of papers with numbers written on them into the air with a prior agreement to accept the first ten slips they picked up off the floor.

In reality Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his team have been working on these proposals for well over half a year now, not to mention many of the debates over rates and special carve-outs have been pored over for decades. How many scholarly tax policy white papers have been published in recent times? You either believe in what you’re doing or you don’t. Here’s guessing Donald Trump knows about as much about taxes as anyone – and it’s not because he’s still withholding release of his tax returns.

The Politico reporters indicated certain Republican senators weren’t thrilled with some of the changes in the final iteration (Senators Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake among others) but all Republicans in the upper chamber – or at least 50 of them – are expected to give their votes in the affirmative. Even bitter near-retiree Bob Corker (the lone “no” vote on the version that passed the Senate a couple weeks ago) indicated he’d go along with the compromise bill language.

As would be expected the media was quick to argue Republicans are taking a huge political gamble by passing a bill (without a single Democrat supporter) which polls show is not overwhelmingly popular with the public; and of course there are President Donald Trump’s approval ratings to consider. With Democrats out in full force trying to scare the public into believing tax reform (and tax cuts) would be a bad thing for normal people, what do you expect?

The average person doesn’t understand how reducing the corporate tax rate will benefit them personally and when “Chuck & Nancy” are claiming “Armageddon” and doom will ensue from altering their precious tax code, it’s no surprise Democrat supporters aren’t taking to it. When tax time rolls around, however, and Americans see their government obligation burdens reduced – or eliminated -- we’ll likely see improvement in the new law’s poll numbers.

For the time being, Republicans aren’t worrying about the Democrats’ incessant complaining. Al Weaver reported in the Washington Examiner, “House and Senate leaders were on schedule to pass the bill early next week, and many said they believe the legislation would improve their chances of winning races in 2018.

“’I think it will help us. I think this tax bill will be a big achievement for us, and overall it will be good,’ said Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. ‘Overall, it's not perfect ... But I like a lot of things in it.’

“’I believe that this creates more jobs, better jobs, higher-paying jobs, and if that turns out to be true, it's helpful in 2018,’ said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who added that some of the effects will be felt by the American public ahead of the election. ‘They'll be felt to some degree, but this is a matter of improvements to the economy over a long period of time as well.’”

As evidenced by Shelby’s and Moran’s comments the bill served to do at least one unthinkable thing -- unite conservatives and the party establishment on the notion of passing it. Though everyone says there are elements of the package they don’t particularly care for, they all seem to be in agreement that overall it will turn out to be a good thing.

Unlike with something like the Democrats’ Obamacare debacle which essentially was a bunch of wishful thinking promises wrapped around a rickety government framework, tax bills are concrete things. You either pay more or you get more back. It’s something people can “chew” on for sure.

That being said, I personally believe it is unhealthy for any political system to exempt large swaths of people from paying taxes. Everyone needs skin in the game, even if it’s just $10. Under this bill it appears a lot more people will not only avoid paying any taxes they’ll actually be receiving checks from the government (because of the expanded child tax credit). If anything, this aspect may come back to haunt the Republicans the most. It’s just a different type of welfare than the Democrats offer without hoping to receive the same political benefits.

It makes sense to surmise the visible improvements in the economy will arrive just in time for the 2018 federal elections. With economic growth almost certainly set to take a significant leap forward in the wake of more optimistic business conditions citizens will be in a good mood when it comes time to pull the voting lever next November. Good economic figures are difficult to ignore – and campaign against.

Or at least by then there will be something to talk about other than Roy Moore’s loss in Alabama. The Democrats will be in a tizzy trying to distract voters’ attention before Election Day. With the Russian collusion thing already practically dead and Republicans actually getting together to pass some major legislation, who knows – maybe by then we’ll be able to discuss issues instead of a candidate’s questionable past.

There’s already some evidence the Republicans’ tax work is paying off, too.

Ryan Struyk of CNN reported on Saturday, “Republicans in Congress say passing their sweeping tax reform plan will be a Christmas gift to the American people -- and it looks like Republican voters are already starting to give back.

“A new Quinnipiac University poll this week found that Republicans' views of their own party in Congress are above water for the first time since June, climbing from a 32-60% approval rating to a 47-43% score over the last month as the first drafts of tax reform passed both chambers.”

What, folks are happy the politicians they elected are actually accomplishing something? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out people expect their representatives to keep their word – even if the tax bill isn’t perfect. Let this be a lesson for 2018; whenever the media – or Democrats – say something will end up hurting the GOP politically, think just the opposite.

Of course the poll numbers aren’t all rosy; independents remain skeptical of tax reform (by a 3-to-1 margin) and Democrats absolutely hate the idea, going against it 30-to-1 according to Struyk. “Only 16% of independents and 3% of Democrats say they're more likely to vote for their member of Congress if they vote for the tax overhaul. Similarly low numbers say they approve of the way congressional Republicans are handling their job.”

In other words, it’s probably a good thing for Republicans the election isn’t being held anytime soon, but that’s the point – no one is voting today for offices on the ballot next November. A million things could happen between this moment and eleven months from now so there’s little need to be concerned about what people currently think versus late next year.

With the Senate majority narrowed to 51 votes (following last week’s loss in Alabama) Republicans need more than ever to band together to pass legislation the public will see as making progress towards fulfilling Trump’s campaign promises. As has been emphasized numerous times, Trump himself may not be overwhelmingly popular but his platform enjoys a clear majority in most instances.

In the meantime Republicans should pull out all the stops to confirm Trump’s judicial nominees, work on a reasonable infrastructure package, pass immigration enforcement measures and avoid listening to the continuing gripes of Democrats who say the world is coming to an end because the government isn’t going to be controlling everything anymore.

In other words, don’t legislate scared; don’t pay attention to the pundits and encourage Trump to stay out in front leading as a president should.

For his part, Trump seems proud of the Congress…for once. Darren Samuelsohn of Politico wrote, “President Donald Trump took an early victory lap Saturday as Republicans closed in on his administration’s first major legislative accomplishment and the biggest overhaul to U.S. tax policy in 30 years.

“’It's going to be one of the great Christmas gifts to middle income people,’ the president told reporters outside the White House before boarding Marine One for a weekend getaway at Camp David.

“’The Democrats have their soundbite, the standard soundbite before they even know what the bill is all about,’ Trump added. ‘They talk about 'for the wealthy.' But this is going to be one of the greatest gifts for the middle-income people of this country that they've ever gotten for Christmas.’”

Some people think you should refrain from giving money as a Christmas gift, but in this instance Republicans are doing the right thing. Passing tax reform carries with it the possible downside of more difficult campaigns in 2018 but here’s thinking the public will eventually warm to the idea.

Having a little spare change rattling around in your pocket is a good thing after all. Merry Christmas, America!

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