Republicans in Washington actually do something

Today, Washington Republicans, nearly a year after capturing total control of both political branches, actually did something they had said they would do.

They passed a huge, complicated tax package that no one has made a convincing case the nation needs, that is startlingly unpopular (“24 percent of Americans say that the Trump-backed tax plan is a good idea, versus 41 percent who believe it’s a bad idea“), and that the experts predict will significantly increase the national debt.

Whatever it does to the country, the bill has made one man very, very happy...

Whatever it does to the country, the bill has made one man very, very happy…

But hey, they did something, whether it was a good idea or not, and they’ve wanted to do something for so long, so they’re excited about it. So, congrats, guys. I guess…

Paul Ryan can die happy now, his heart’s desire having been achieved. They say he’s been working toward this since 1993. Which tells you a lot about Paul Ryan.

I am not excited, partly because it is about money. And I just find it hard to get interested in money, even my money, during those anomalous periods of my life when I have some. Needless to say, I have not tried to decipher any of those stories out there that would tell me how I would fare under this boondoggle. Just don’t tell me, OK?

Anyway, that would not be the criterion I’d go by in judging whether this is a good move or not. The point is whether it’s good for the country. And I just can’t begin to tell you whether it’s a bad idea, or a worse idea. (Yes, hypothetically it could be a good idea, but I’ve been watching this come together, and that seems fairly unlikely. Perhaps I’ll be surprised.)

But perhaps some of y’all have passionate opinions on the subject, or even salient observations to make.

So here’s your chance…

25 thoughts on “Republicans in Washington actually do something

  1. bud

    This is not a good bill and will no doubt be replaced if Democrats ever take full control, probably in 2020. One thing I think we should all be able to agree on is that Republicans care zero about budget deficits and the debt. That’s just a bunch of sloganeering hogwash used to brand Democrats. This bill demonstrates beyond any shadow of a doubt that debt is of no concern, only the enrichment of the already wealthy. That in nutshell is the Republican brand in 2017.

  2. Scout

    If most of the country really doesn’t like this bill, yet it is able to pass, does that mean representative government is broken? It certainly seems that Congress did not take pains to represent their constituents wishes.

    I do not like drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge.
    I think removing the mandate will make everyone’s health care go up and put it out of reach for those that need it most.
    I don’t believe that the tax breaks given to corporations will turn into jobs or higher wages.
    I worry for the poor and elderly who will be affected by cuts in medicare and medicaid that will be triggered.

    As others have said, it seems like a reverse Robin Hood plan to me.

    But we’ll see what happens I suppose.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, representative democracy is broken. And to a great extent, gerrymandering broke it.

      At the moment, Republicans control the national government. But not all Republicans — just the more extreme ones. THAT’s who the GOP members fear, because those are the ones who can take their seats away in the next primary.

      So it’s not about what the majority wants. It’s about what the radicals who can tip a GOP primary want.

      Republicans are sort of like the dog who caught the moving car. Since 1990, they’ve been outplaying the Dems on reapportionment at ever turn. But now, it’s destroying their own party. REAL Republicans get crowded out, even called RINOS, by the bomb-throwers at the fringes.

      There are two things wrong with this explanation: First, it doesn’t simply explain the Senate: Senators are not elected from gerrymandered districts. But I think the effect is there, indirectly. The party itself has been more and more radicalized in the districts, to the point that a similar dynamic — needing to kowtow to the loonies — is at play in Senate primaries as well.

      The second caveat is that there’s more than one set of crazies. And it seems to me that this tax bill is playing one set off against the other: the populists vs. the Mark Sanford/Paul Ryan-style economic libertarians. Given a choice between the two, the GOP went with its basic instincts — go with the big money…

    2. C J Watson

      Main topic aside, since you mentioned ANWR, I love the idea of drilling in the ANWR. Pumping not so much. If we drill and set in place all the infrastructure to pump, the price of oil will drop drastically. The oil producers know that if we pump our own oil, they don’t sell their oil. All we have to do is put the plumbing in place. We don’t have to turn the spigot on.

  3. Frank

    Republicans — who likely received two out of every three votes from South Carolina voters older than 60, a statistic probably reflected at the national level — are about to infuriate one of their key constituencies.

    Most of you have either never heard of or have completely forgotten about the last GOP fiasco, when Ronald Reagan’s well-intended efforts blew up with the quick implementation of the Medicare Catastrophic Protection Act and its even faster repeal.

    Here is an article from the NYT:

    Lesson Is Seen in Failure of Law on Medicare in 1989

    Charles Tasnadi/Associated Press
    In 1988, President Ronald Reagan had grown wary of the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act, but his vice president, George Bush, saw political advantage in it.
    Published: November 17, 2013

    WASHINGTON — Angry Americans voice outrage at being asked to pay more for health coverage. Lawmakers and the White House say the public just doesn’t appreciate the benefits of the new health law. Opponents clamor for repeal before the program fully kicks in.
    Contribute to Our Reporting

    The Times would like to hear from Americans who have begun to sign up for health care under the Affordable Care Act.
    Share Your Experience »
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    Angry older voters stormed a car carrying Representative Dan Rostenkowski.
    The year was 1989, and the law was the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act, which was supposed to protect older Americans from bankruptcy due to medical bills. Instead it became a catastrophe for Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who learned the hard way that many older Americans did not want to be helped in that particular way.

    Seventeen months after President Ronald Reagan signed the measure with Rose Garden fanfare, a series of miscalculations and missteps in passing the law became painfully evident, and it was unceremoniously stricken from the books by lawmakers who could not see its demise come quickly enough.

    The tortured history of the catastrophic-care law is a cautionary tale in the context of the struggle over the new health law, the Affordable Care Act. It illustrates the political and policy hazards of presenting sweeping health system changes to consumers who might not be prepared for them. And it provides a rare example of lawmakers who were willing to jettison a big piece of social policy legislation when the political risks became too grave.

    “It has often been said that if you get an entitlement on the books, you can never get rid of it,” said Bill Archer, who pushed to repeal the 1988 law as a senior Republican, from Texas, on the House Ways and Means Committee. “That is an example of a time we did get rid of it.”

    Backers of the Affordable Care Act say comparisons to the catastrophic-care debacle are flawed. They say that the new law fills a major health insurance void and that despite its current problems it will never meet the same fate as that undertaking in 1988.

    “It is enormously different,” said Ron Pollack, the executive director of Families USA, a liberal consumer advocacy group, who supported both the new health law and the catastrophic-care program. “You had a benefit totally paid for by 40 percent of the Medicare beneficiaries, who overwhelmingly thought there was not a benefit there for them. It is understandable they were upset.”

    Others involved with the passage and repeal of the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act see clear parallels with the current situation, in which a very vocal segment that views itself as harmed by the new law has joined with highly organized political operations to rally opposition to it.

    “When I saw this massive thing, I said, ‘Boy, if this is anything like catastrophic, they are going to be in trouble,’ ” said Brian J. Donnelly, who led the 1989 repeal effort as a Massachusetts Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. “It is a very good analogy.”

    The concept of expanding Medicare originated in the Reagan administration in 1986 under Otis R. Bowen, the secretary of health and human services, who proposed a modest change to add an annual premium while capping annual out-of-pocket costs for co-payments and hospitalization at $2,000. Politically, Republicans were looking for a way to offset damage from a proposal to delay Social Security increases.

    Democrats, who controlled Congress, were not about to be outbid by Reagan when it came to a core constituency like retirees. As the Bowen plan moved through the House and the Senate, new benefits were tacked on, including premium protection for low-income Americans, help for spouses of nursing home residents and some limited prescription drug coverage, driving up the cost of the program.

    With the White House insisting that Medicare recipients pay the tab, the sponsors devised a sliding payment scale based on income that the Internal Revenue Service would collect. That approach shares some DNA with the current law, since the I.R.S. is responsible for imposing penalties against people who do not buy insurance and for administering other aspects of the Affordable Care Act.

    Wary of being accused of instituting a new tax, backers of the catastrophic-care bill chose to call the payment of up to $800 for individuals and $1,600 for couples a supplemental premium.

    Aides to Reagan grew wary of the final product — approved 328 to 72 in the House and 86 to 11 in the Senate in the summer of 1988 — and pondered a veto. But Vice President George Bush, running for the top job that year, saw the measure as a potential political advantage, and it became law.

    But not for long. The supplemental premium quickly became an issue as more affluent Medicare beneficiaries got wind of it. Many of those retirees already had some semblance of the new coverage and resented being asked to pay for it for others.

    “It blew up,” said Mr. Donnelly, who left the House, served as an ambassador and is now retired. “A lot of people in the United States already had this coverage. Almost every retired union member had the coverage through negotiated benefits.”

    In addition, the revenue from the new premium was projected to exceed what was needed and quickly build a surplus, feeding a perception that the catastrophic-care program was a backdoor route to reducing the deficit through a tax on retirees.

    To their chagrin, advocates and critics of the measure also discovered that many people who were supposed to be thrilled about the new plan misunderstood it and thought it was going to ease one of their great fears — the expense of living in a nursing home. When consumers came to realize that it did little to help with long-term care, enthusiasm dipped.

    In a foreshadowing of the angry town hall-style meetings on health care in 2009, older voters began to protest the measure. They were inflamed by an aggressive direct-mail effort by the relatively new National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which found itself fighting with the American Association of Retired Persons, a champion of the new law.

    The dramatic climax came on Sept. 17, 1989, when Representative Dan Rostenkowski, the gruff and burly chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, was hectored in his Chicago district by a band of angry older voters. They surrounded and blocked his car and forced him to escape on foot before he could make his automotive getaway. A news crew caught the episode on camera.

    The handwriting was on the wall. Authors of the bill tried to salvage it, but the House voted on Oct. 4, 1989, to repeal almost all of it. The Senate tried to retain the benefits but eliminate the supplemental premium. The House balked, leading to another vote to repeal in November 1989, as House members sat in the chamber with coats in their laps, eager to head home for the holidays.

    The experience made many lawmakers gun-shy about health care and slowed major policy changes for years until the approval of the Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003 and the health care law now taking effect.

    Mr. Pollack and others dismiss the notion that President Obama’s health care law could be similarly repealed if the backlash becomes overwhelming, arguing that the costs are spread among many people and that the benefits flow to too many for it to be reversed. Many aspects of the law are already being widely taken advantage of, such as the ability to keep dependents on a family’s health plan until age 26.

    Mr. Archer agreed.

    “This Congress and this president are too committed to it,” he said. “But maybe if you get a few white-haired women to jump on the hood of someone’s car, it might change things.”

    1. Bart

      “Medicare Catastrophic Protection Act” .. all I can say about it is that it did save my Dad when my Mom was in the hospital from March 1989 thru November 1989 when she passed away. If not for the MCPA, my Dad would have been forced into bankruptcy and his home taken away along with any of his savings and other assets. It may have been mishandled but it did some good for a lot of older citizens who simply couldn’t afford to pay for additional health care, private nursing, or a decent resident cancer center.

      This is the problem when jackasses think they can predict how citizens will react and adopt the “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” attitude. Unfortunately, the old jackasses have been replaced by new ones on both sides of the aisle. It is tiresome and irritating to listen to the same old crap, day in and day out coming from politicians who have no idea of what life is like outside their Beltway bubble.

  4. Bart

    While not a national trend, some businesses have already started using the tax breaks to help their employees. Some are already raising their minimum pay scale to $15 per hour because of the tax bill and their decreased tax rates. Others are adding to the pay raise by giving a bonus once the bill is signed. The polling numbers show a larger percentage opposing the new tax bill but the percentage of undecided plus the ones approving are larger than the disapprovals. Once the undecided can see if the bill is good or bad, then the polling numbers will mean something. Until then, they are based on the unknown. Count me in the undecided because I admit I don’t know enough about the bill to speak with any conviction one way or the other.

    If enough companies and corporations actually do pass the tax breaks on to their employees, then Trump will have better polling numbers and when voters bank accounts are better under any POTUS, they tend to put them back in office.

  5. Mark Stewart

    This marks the “high water” mark for the “Republican” party. The GOP seems to have forgotten that voters are an influence block as well. That is going to hurt them badly next year.

    People will continue to vote against their best interests in SC as they always have, but in blue and swing states the Republicans are going to experience a Congressional wipe out.

    My fear is that this is going to simply further polarize the divide between the two extremes. But it makes no sense for the GOP to shaft the upper middle class; that can’t eend well for the Republican party.

  6. Bob Amundson

    This tax bill is just part one of the plan to reduce entitlement spending. The deficit hawks can now say, well, what about the deficit, trusting that many people aren’t paying attention to the fact that this bill increases deficit spending. Next year expect legislation to change Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

    I can argue for or against entitlement spending as a viable way to insure there is a safety net, as it is indeed necessary to find a balance between enabling and empowering people. However, it is important to understand motivation, and the ideas of the father of motivational psychology, Maslow. It is difficult for people who are focused on food and shelter (physiological needs) to move up the pyramid (hence, the hierarchy) to safety, to love/belonging, to esteem, and finally to self-actualization.

    1. Frank

      Bob, I think you hit the nail on the head. The tax cut is a strategy to shrink government to the point it can be drowned in a bathtub.

      1. Richard

        Well, if nothing else it take the situation into a different direction because nothing changed or improved under Obama like the Democrats said it would. What happened to the national debt under the previous eight years? Worst that can happen under this plan is more of the same with a postcard tax form vs. a 36 page tax form. It shouldn’t take a tax attorney to complete your tax return.

  7. clark surratt

    Shouldn’t Democrats be celebrating passage of this tax law if it is as bad as the critics say it is.? This should be the main platform for the 2018 elections handed to the Democrats on a golden platter. Dems should be having parties and praising Paul and McConnell and Drump. Along with an easy anti-Republican easy kill, ll, shouldn’t the Democrats have a tasty alternative tax plan the nation will love? Why don’t they?

    1. Scout

      I have heard some Democrats make this point. But some of them I think actually care about people in addition to politics, and this bill is not good for a lot of people, hence reason to be upset in the meantime.

            1. Scout

              True, but I think he means do the Dems have an alternate Tax plan that is good for lots of people. I guess we can hope that if Democrats get control of Congress in 2018, they hopefully will fix the terrible parts.

              1. clark surratt

                Why wouldn’t they have an alternative tax plan now? Wouldn’t it help them campaign and get elected.?

          1. clark surratt

            Mr. Frank, that sounds like the Democratic Party answer of late, in S.C. and in U.S. Very frustrating for those who want improvements.

            1. Frank

              Agreed. However, because the republicans control all executive and legislative bodies in SC and US, then it is rather difficult to advance even motherhood and apple pie issues. As to US, events in Virginia and Alabama suggest Republican excesses have become a bridge too far, and here in SC, James Smith offers hope that a progressive candidate with a well-thought out agenda may be a very viable alternative to an odious display of republican ethical lapses and self aggrandizement.

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