The Corner

Politics & Policy

What a Revealing Video Shows Us About the Tax Reform Debate

I’d urge you to watch the video below. CBS talked to three different families in three very different financial circumstances — a single mom in North Carolina who makes less than $40,000 per year, a married couple in Rhode Island with no kids who make $150,000 per year, and California parents with three kids who make more than $300,000. Each family gets a break – which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s closely followed the details of the tax plan. But two of the families thought their taxes would be higher. Watch:

This is exactly the dynamic Republicans are hoping for in 2018. Democrats and many members of the media relentlessly claimed the bill would hurt the middle class. They called it a “giveaway” to corporate America and to the very rich. Polls indicated that large numbers of Americans actually thought their taxes would increase. In other words, the public debate served mainly to obscure the truth and conceal the benefits to working families.

So what happens when reality intervenes and Americans by the millions see their take-home pay increase? The GOP’s hope is that it will lead to a public reconsideration and a rebound in Republican fortunes at the polls. And that’s certainly possible. There has been an enormous amount of doom-mongering in the media and online, and if Republicans can keep America safe and prosperous in the coming year, and if family fortunes continue to improve, then some of the hysteria may lose its bite. Eventually people tune out Chicken Little. 

But there’s another possibility. The overheated and frantic news cycles that gripped 2017 will almost certainly continue into 2018, and an impulsive and often-malicious president will likely still suck all the oxygen out of the public debate. In an age of polarization, “It’s the economy, stupid” seems to be less accurate every day. As current approval ratings indicate, American prosperity is relevant but hardly dispositive. With outrage piling on outrage, talk of tax cuts may feel like a debate a thousand news cycles old. The goal for Republicans — especially the White House — is to introduce a measure of calm and stability to American politics. Otherwise, even higher paychecks may not matter to a public weary of scandal, insults, and drama.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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