There’s no honest way to appease ‘deficit hawks’ and pad ‘pass-through’ businesses at the same time

[ Originally published on this site as post ]

Republicans moved one step closer to passing their tax giveaway to the rich Tuesday when they passed the bill through the Senate Budget Committee, but if GOP holdouts were even remotely intellectually honest, there’s no way they would vote for this bill. On one side, the GOP deficit hawks want guarantees the bill won’t balloon the deficit beyond the $1.4 trillion it already costs; on the other, Republicans like Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson want to boost the bill’s benefits to pass-through businesses, which will ultimately balloon the bill’s cost. There’s simply no way to please one side without hurting the other, as Greg Sargent explains:

Several deficit-hawk senators, such as Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), are demanding that some kind of “trigger” be added to the bill, which would raise taxes later if the plan’s tax cuts end up adding to the deficit. […] As of now, how this trigger would work, and whose taxes would go up, are unspecified.

At the same time, Senate Republicans are currently looking at ways to make the bill more generous to owners of “pass-through” businesses, to win over holdouts Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Steve Daines of Montana. Research has shown that most pass-through income goes to the top 1 percent: As the New York Times put it, to win them over, Republicans are “increasingly tilting” their plan “to benefit wealthy Americans.”

But here’s the rub of the matter: As one tax analyst tells me, if Republicans make the plan more generous to the wealthy by doing more for pass-throughs (to win over some senators), this would also add to the deficit (which should drive away the others). And this leads us right back to the con at the heart of this whole affair.

This tax bill stinks any which way you slice it. It heavily benefits the rich while sticking both the poor and future generations with the tab. Whatever manipulations the GOP comes up with to persuade Republican holdouts is nothing more than window dressing. The only question is whether Republicans supposedly standing on principle prove so desperate for a legislative win that they embrace the facade.  

The fact that both Sens. Johnson and Corker added their support Tuesday to pass the tax bill out of committee on a party-line vote suggests they’re just that desperate.