And now it’s time for the main event: tax reform. After failing repeatedly to fulfill an ill-conceived and unwise pledge to dump Obamacare, the Republican-led Congress is leaving that embarrassing debacle behind and moving on to an overhaul of the tax code.
Tax reform is the centerpiece of the party's legislative agenda, the one big gift to Americans that Republicans are counting on to make good on their campaign promises. The one that will do the most, they say, to improve the country and the lives of its citizens.
Yet the nine-page outline unveiled last week — though just a framework short on numbers, tables and details — wasn't promising. Indeed, it was downright disappointing.
To begin with, President Trump and his allies in Congress have solemnly pledged that this overhaul would not be about making the rich richer.
Yet the most striking element of the plan offers a windfall to those who have the most, cutting the highest rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. It also eliminates the estate tax.
The former provision benefits those earning just a bit over $400,000 a year, while the elimination of the estate tax would benefit an even smaller slice of America's wealthiest families. So much for that pledge.
The president has also said the plan would reduce taxes on middle class families, but that is not at all clear from the Republican outline.
Doubling the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples sounds good, but eliminating a host of other deductions could wind up making some working families pay more.
Nor should anyone who worries about deficits be reassured by the promise that cutting taxes will spur economic growth to compensate for lost revenue. We've heard this one before.
Most experts scoff at this claim, and experience suggests it just doesn't work, no matter how often you say it.
If the president and Congress want to succeed with their tax plan, they should focus on the promise expressed by President Trump last week: “Tax reform will protect low-income and middle-income households, not the wealthy and well-connected.”
We hope he means it. It’s not reform if all it accomplishes is to help the rich and short-changes the middle class.
▪ Real reform that bolsters the economy will avoid an increase in inequality.
▪ It will offer genuine help to the middle class by simplifying the byzantine tax code and allowing families to keep more of their income. It will close loopholes for tax dodgers.
▪ It will not result in a loss of federal revenue or an increase in the deficit.
▪ It will rely on the Congressional Budget Office and other nonpartisan sources to estimate what the tax bill will actually cost, instead of relying on dubious claims from tax-cut ideologues.
▪ And, finally, any successful tax plan must be the result of bipartisan consensus, instead of stiff-arming Democrats and using special budget rules to get the bill across the finish line by a simple majority.
Republicans tried going it alone on Obamacare repeal.
They risk yet another embarrassing debacle if they stick to the same losing tactic on taxes.