Politics & Policy

The Corner

Red States, Blue States, and Taxes

A common criticism of the Republican tax bill is that by limiting the current deductions for state and local taxes and mortgage interest, it is punishing Democratic states and voters. (The House bills repeals the deduction for state and local sales and income taxes and caps the deduction for property taxes at $10,000; it ends the mortgage deduction for second homes and caps the deduction for new homes at $500,000 of loan value.)

The fact that these tax increases will fall most heavily on “blue” parts of the country is obviously not an accident. Republicans think they need to limit some deductions to to make up some of the lost revenue from other parts of tax reform, and doing that in a way that minimizes the pain to their own constituents is bound to appeal to them.

But I’d push back on the claim of “weaponization” for three reasons. First, Republicans have wanted to get rid of the state-and-local tax deduction for a long time, even when it had a less partisan incidence. The Reagan administration tried to kill it and failed, partly because there were more blue-state Republican congressmen then. The mortgage-interest deduction is a perennial target of tax reformers left and right. There are good arguments beyond hurting Democratic voters to take these steps.

Second, the plan includes some elements, admittedly smaller ones, that tend to help blue states disproportionately. Ending the alternative minimum tax, as the Republican bill does, disproportionately helps people in high-tax states. Every state with a higher-than-average percentage of taxpayers paying the AMT is a blue state, based on this chart from the Tax Policy Center. Getting rid of the AMT wouldn’t be my highest priority for tax reform, but it’s also not something you’d put in the bill if hurting blue-state voters—or changing tax policy for the relative betterment of red states at the expense of blue states—were one of your top goals.

Third, if you see these tax breaks as unjustified, then their existence has been, in part, a favor to blue states at the expense of red states. Getting rid of that favor makes the tax code more, rather than less, level between red and blue states.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More