Anti Tax? The GOP Tax Plan Clobbers the Middle Class and Poor

Last updated on July 10th, 2012 at 10:27 am

Republicans Still Call Themselves Anti Tax, When In Reality They Are Taxing the Middle Class and Poor.

So long as we keep allowing Republicans to define themselves as anti tax, we aren’t having a real debate about the issue at hand. The party of tax cuts for the middle class and poor is the Democratic Party. The Party of tax cuts for the rich is the Republican Party. That is, if we’re going by their records and their plans rather than their slogans and bumper sticker jargon.

Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal sold his “Republicans are the party of lower taxes lie” on Up with Chris Hayes this morning. The truth is that the Republican Party is the party of lower taxes for the rich, but higher taxes on the middle class and poor. Passing over the implications of their policies on the middle and lower classes is intellectually dishonest. It’s time someone made Republicans own this reality.

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Up With Chris Hayes’ show is a must see if you like wonky real debates about the issues instead of reality TV show style narcissists screaming talking points at each other and even more empty hosts nodding at stale Republican “ideas.”

This morning’s show was no different. Chris had Stephen Moore from the Wall Street Journal (former President of the right wing Club for Growth) on to discuss Mitt Romney’s tax return problem, and a real discussion about ideology ensued, though I note how quickly Moore pivoted from the uncomfortable Romney release issue to Republican talking points about being the anti-tax party and how it all trickles down. It’s worth watching because real debates almost never happen anymore – but a funny thing happened in the middle of this debate.

Moore tossed out the “to be a Republicans is to be against raising taxes, and if Democrats want to be the pro-tax party, that’s fine” line, and Hayes met him at the finish line of “I will proudly carry the banner of pro-tax but not the banner of anti-growth. I also want robust growth.” Hayes continued making excellent points, “If it’s always directional and you always have to cut taxes to spur growth, eventually, you have the problem the federal reserve has. You hit the zero lower bound of federal revenue. You can’t keep directionally cutting taxes in one direction.”

Hayes was right on, but lost in this debate is a point that’s really rather important. Republicans are no longer the party of anti-taxes. They are the party of anti-taxes for the rich. As Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who requested an analysis of the GOP budget plan, said, “If you want to cut taxes on the rich and not raise the deficit, you’re going to have to basically clobber the middle class.”

Clobber the middle class? That doesn’t sound anti tax. Here’s how the House GOP plan breaks down according to the congressional Joint Economic Committee:

The net result: Married couples in that income range would pay an additional $2,700 annually to the Internal Revenue Service, on top of the tax increases that are scheduled to hit every American household when the George W. Bush-era cuts expire at the end of the year.
Households earning more than $1 million a year, meanwhile, could see a net tax cut of about $300,000 annually.
“According to this report, while millionaires will receive a huge tax break, earners making under $200,000 will see their taxes rise significantly,” said Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), who chairs the Joint Economic Committee.

And while Republicans dispute the committee’s findings with vague suggestions that they might not continue x and y, the conclusions are based upon Republicans’ own platform and history. I’ve yet to see a Republican plan that gave a hit to the wealthy, but I’ve seen many enacted, such as in Wisconsin, that give huge breaks to corporations but increase taxes and or decrease spending on resources used primarily by the middle class in sneaky ways in order to make up the difference.

If that’s not enough, how about Mitt Romney’s tax plan? The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concludes that Romney’s tax plan will increase the deficit. Even Romney’s own material never claims his budget to be revenue neutral, meaning he knows it will raise the deficit, though they claim that lowering taxes on the rich will increase prosperity which will somehow fill the coffers with revenues. Experts are baffled as to how this would happen. For example, the Tax Policy Center projected that Romney’s plan would actually add $4.9 trillion to the deficit.

While at the same time, the Romney plan would “significantly exacerbate the already serious problem of income inequality in America” by raising taxes on those making less than $30,000 a year.

Finally, the Romney plan would significantly exacerbate the already serious problem of income inequality in America, conferring extraordinarily large tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans while raising taxes on people making less than $30,000 a year. TPC estimates that people who make over $1 million a year would get an average tax cut of $250,000 in 2015 (increasing their after-tax income by an average of almost 12 percent), while people making between $40,000 and $50,000 would get an average tax cut of $512 (increasing their after-tax income by an average of 1.3 percent), and people making between $10,000 and $20,000 would pay an average $174 more in taxes (decreasing their after-tax income by an average of 1.1 percent).

So Romney’s plan shifts the tax burden to the poor and what they can’t absorb will go to the deficit. See, this is why I refuse to accept the framing that Republicans are anti-tax, fiscal conservatives. A fiscal conservative pays their bills – they don’t run around expecting something for nothing. They don’t refuse to pay their share while expecting the poor to make it up by paying more than their fair share.

Romney’s plan makes the Bush tax cuts permanent, but does NOT INCLUDE the tax cuts/credits to the middle class and poor that President Obama attached.

Romney’s plan cuts taxes on corporations by 30%. I would argue that corporate tax rates are somewhat meaningless in a debate on the deficit, since the largest corporations rarely actually pay the stated tax rate. Unless we are discussing effective tax rates and addressing corporate loopholes, we’re not addressing the problem, but at any rate, lowering corporate income taxes even further is hardly a way to lower the deficit.

It’s fair to say that Romney’s plan benefits you if you make over $1 million. You will get a tax cut that is significant enough to matter at $1 million in income. Middle class folks would save an average of $512 a year – yes, that might be a tax break, but when you take into account other Republican “ideas” (see above House GOP plan), this could actually easily turn into a tax increase on the middle class with a Republican majority. Dead to rights, Romney’s policy admits to raising taxes on the poor, and House Republicans’ plan admits to raising taxes on middle class. Raising taxes on some people does not equal tax cutting status, unless we only count the rich. Is that the disconnect?

So long as we keep allowing Republicans to define themselves as anti tax, we aren’t having a real debate about the issue at hand.

This isn’t about the ideology of whether lowering taxes until you get to zero taxes spurs growth (historically this doesn’t hold up but as Chris points out, even if it did, you get to a point where you have nowhere to go). This is about an ideology being used to prop up the rich and excuse excessive subsidies and cuts for wealthy corporations and people, while placing the preponderance of the burden on the lower and middle classes.

Regardless of the fancy ideology Republicans use to shell game the tax cuts for the rich and the government subsidies for the very successful corporations they protect, they are the party of higher taxes for the serfs. Pretending this is a real debate about ideology ignores the reality of current Republican policies.

Wonk is great, but down in the trenches, we must remember the impact of these ideological arguments on real people. Can the poor and the middle class afford to pay even more money in taxes right now, or lose essential services? Is this the time to double down on trickle down? Republicans are the party of higher taxes on the poor, and their plans suggest higher taxes on the middle class or a drastic loss of other tax credits and or services. I don’t see a party of anti-tax and it’s inaccurate for Republicans to claim that mantle.

The party of tax cuts for the middle class and poor is the Democratic Party. The Party of tax cuts for the rich is the Republican Party. The trickle down carrot dangles. Bite me middle class, bite me.

Sarah Jones

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