Politics & Policy

The Stakes on Tax Reform

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks about tax reform, November 30, 2017. (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)
Giving in to the Left won’t win the GOP any converts.

The New York Times’ dropping the pretense of objectivity in its crusade against the GOP tax plan should remind wavering Republicans that surrendering to liberal rhetoric is a guarantee of defeat.

We all know that President Donald Trump has often behaved in ways none of his predecessors would have even imagined. But while we are understandably riveted by the ongoing circus of the Trump White House and Twitter account, something comparable has also been happening in many of the mainstream-media outlets that regularly chide the president for his conduct. Whether it is a reaction to Trump or merely a product of an era of hyper-partisanship, the liberal bias of newspapers such as the New York Times has now reached levels every bit as unprecedented as anything the president has done.

In its campaign against the Republican tax plan, the paper has dropped the pose of objectivity that, however insincere, was always key to its identity as the nation’s paper of record. The Times was not content with having its editorial column and stable of op-ed columnists denounce the GOP effort in hyperbolic and often disingenuous terms. It has also extended their crusade to its news section with front-page articles, labeled “News Analysis,” that make no effort to allow both sides of this complicated debate to make their cases — and couch every point with pejorative language that accepts the Democrats’ frame of reference about the issue as indisputable fact and dismisses Republican arguments.

Perhaps this is not surprising to those who have followed the descent of the Times’ news section into flagrant bias in recent years. But when the paper’s official Twitter account began demanding that its followers contact specific senators to pressure them to vote against the GOP bill, the already blurred line between the Times’ current idea of journalism and blatant political activism had been crossed. That the most venerable of liberal establishment media outlets should oppose Republican ideas about tax reform was to be expected. But that this particular institution of journalism would behave as if it were just another Democratic-party super PAC validated Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon’s barb about the media being the real “opposition party” to Trump.

But while the Times’ embrace of the kind of partisanship that was once limited to opinion magazines like The Nation is news in itself, conservatives must also understand the implications of the willingness of the mainstream media to go to such lengths.

Some Republicans, especially those disgusted with Trump’s Twitter antics and inappropriate behavior, have shown their vulnerability to the avalanche of abuse of the GOP tax-reform package.

Conservatives have long understood that any effort to reduce the tax burden of businesses in order to stimulate the economic growth the nation desperately needs will bring down on their heads the usual liberal arguments about favoring the wealthy over the poor. While the bills produced by the House and the Senate are far from perfect and reflect the compromises needed to garner majorities, the effort by the Times and the rest of the liberal establishment to characterize them as solely a reverse Robin Hood scam are disingenuous. Any cuts of any kind will always result in large breaks for wealthier individuals and entities than those who were already paying less in taxes, or, more to the point, no taxes at all. But cuts that won’t generate more investment defeat the purpose of an effort whose purpose is not social engineering but to grow the economy in a way that will help everyone.

If the bill were to fail, it would be because some Republicans were sufficiently scared of being labeled as tools of the rich. The liberal class-warfare campaign has persuaded some to support a higher corporate rate than the bill’s current 20 percent.

But scaling back the cuts to corporate taxes would undermine the whole point of the reform effort — stimulating growth — while not winning the GOP any friends on the left. Economists can debate the significance of the difference between the various rates that have been proposed. But the important thing to glean from this seemingly narrow argument is not so much about tax rates as it is about the future of the Republican party. And to understand that properly, we need to remember its not so distant past.

Even avowedly liberal Republicans could never outbid liberal Democrats in an effort to win votes on the left.

In the decades following the New Deal, many Republicans were so intimidated by liberal rhetoric about their insensitivity to the poor that they began to imitate their Democratic opponents. Fearful of being branded as the party of the rich, many refused to stand up for conservative free-market principles or the very notion of economic freedom. That this was a loser’s gamut was a given. Even avowedly liberal Republicans could never outbid liberal Democrats in an effort to win votes on the left. That resulted in a Republican party that often seemed to be offering voters the Democratic platform minus 5 or 10 percent to give it a veneer of fiscal sanity. It was, in no small measure, because of this drift that National Review was founded in 1955.

If Democrats held on to the House from 1930 to 1994, save for two two-year breaks, it was because congressional Republicans generally failed to provide a genuine conservative alternative. The GOP’s dominance since then has earned them abuse from the liberals at the Times. But the Republicans listening to liberal voices telling them they are doomed if they don’t start tilting left on taxes are kidding themselves if they think doing so will save them in 2018.

Trump’s dysfunctional administration may wind up sinking the GOP next year no matter what Congress passes on taxes or anything else. But if Republicans are to have any hope, it can come only from sticking to their conservative guns and producing a plan that will help grow the economy. Rather than accepting the liberal slogans about “trickle-down economics” and sinking back into the supine position they adopted before Ronald Reagan and then Newt Gingrich helped transform their party, Republicans need to use the rare window of opportunity in which they control both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, and pass a conservative bill that will fulfill the mandate that the voters gave them. Anything else will be an invitation to begin another long stay in the minority.


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