How to pass bad tax bill: Move fast, lie about impacts, hope for the best

It’s impossible to know what the final tax bill will be when it finally comes to a vote, perhaps later this week in the US Senate.

The bill as currently written repeals an important part of the Affordable Care Act, gives large corporations a huge windfall and sticks working families with much of the cost.

It’s a political albatross. As many others have already pointed out, the bill is only palatable if: you repeal the basics of math; ignore what the bill does and pretend it does something else; rush through the Congress before the public can actually find out what it does; and make a lot of promises that you probably won’t keep.

Congressional Republicans are trying all four.

Copies of the Finance Committee Markup are placed for each member of the Senate Finance Committee as the tax-writing panel began work on overhauling the nation’s tax code earlier this month. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Here’s the thing. The more voters learn about the bill – how it will cost 13 million people their health insurance, how it will favor big corporations who move jobs overseas, how it will set the government on a collision course that will ultimately hurt Medicare, Medicaid and education – the more angry they get.

Polling released last week from Hart Research Associates, a well-respected Democratic polling firm, and paid for by Americans for Tax Fairness, found that Maine voters are simply don’t believe that Republicans had their best interests in mind when they wrote their tax scheme.

According to the poll, 53 percent of Mainers disapprove of the tax plan, while just 22 percent approve.

Maine voters aren’t buying what the Republicans are trying to sell. Sixty-two percent say the plan will most benefit the rich. Eighty-percent say that the corporate tax cuts won’t be used to raise wages.

In fact, the poll found that Maine voters prefer tax policies that directly contradict the Republican plan. Sixty-five percent of participants said that they want tax reform to ensure that the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share.

Once voters learned particular details about the tax plan, opposition grew even stronger.

Sixty-eight percent of voters rejected the plan, 53 percent strongly, and just 21 percent approved.

It’s similar to what happened with health care. The US health care system is a mess, but voters believe that Medicare and Medicaid work pretty well, but that health care is too expensive and accessing it is too difficult.

Republicans responded with a health care bill that instead of fixing the problem instead made every element of it worse: Fewer people with insurance, higher premiums for everyone else and Medicaid gutted.

They’re trying the same reverse psychology again – this time with taxes.

In Maine, we have the benefit of strong direct democracy provisions that allow voters to take matters into their own hands. While it might be difficult to draw parallels between different ideas and different pieces of legislation, in the last two years, voters have told us all what they want.

They want wages to be higher, they want the rich to pay their fair share and they want more health care, not less.

Republicans are proposing just the opposite, as objective analysis of the bill shows.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that large US corporations are stashing $2.6 trillion in offshore tax havens. The current tax scheme under consideration would give these same corporations a $562 billion windfall.

That’s a whole lot of cheddar and none of it is going to Caribou, Lewiston or even Portland.

Look, I’m an Apple guy. I love my iPhone and my MacBook. I love all the gadgets. But I don’t believe that Apple needs a tax break or that giving them one means the great folks at the Apple Store in the mall are going to get a raise.

Pfizer, Microsoft and General Electric are doing just fine. The poor are not, and they’ll do even worse under this plan.

Things are moving quickly in Washington. Sen. Susan Collins, per usual, is at the center of the drama. President Donald Trump and other Republicans are working hard to find a deal that would win her support for this tax scheme.

Maybe it’s possible she could get some benefits out of a “yes” vote. But this bill isn’t reform, and it won’t ever be. Collins was a hero on health care. I hope that she will be on this monstrosity too.

It’s a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class and small business to giant corporations.

It will hurt Maine and it will hurt our country, making us less able to do the things that most voters agree we should be doing: Solving real problems like creating jobs, investing education and making sure everyone has access to health care and enough to eat.

And, if it passes, it will set up a future showdown where deficit hawks – currently in the witness protection program – will turn back up to demand cuts to programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.


David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at