Tax cuts uber alles

Terrific piece from Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson in Vox.  Short version: GOP obsession with tax cuts for rich people over actually sensible health care policy did them in.  Lots of good stuff:

In fact, the AHCA suggests that Republican elites remain unified (if not completely) around one goal: tax cuts for the rich. The problem for them is that this goal is shared by few outside their donor class. [emphases mine] It is also at odds with another of their core priorities: cutting back the American welfare state…

For years, Paul Ryan has been the chief policy spokesperson for a loose but increasingly formidable Republican coalition with ambitions to fundamentally reorient the American state. For years, he and his allies have argued that if Republicans were given unified control of government, they would forge a new governing contract, embodied most concretely in a series of doomed budget bills that were the main reason for Ryan’s reputation as a serious policymaker.

These bills had three unifying features: They massively cut taxes, especially on the affluent; they massively cut spending, especially on the poor; and they hid the huge deficits they were certain to produce by using budget-scoring sleight of hand…

The AHCA similarly displayed the current GOP coalition’s overarching priorities. And what it showed, first and foremost, was that those priorities were profoundly out of step with public opinion on an extremely visible issue.

Much has been made of the extremism and intransigence displayed by the Freedom Caucus, which occupies the far-right wing of the far-right GOP. And indeed, that intransigence is a serious and ongoing problem for a GOP determined to govern alone. The core problem, however, was the staggering disapproval of the bill itself, which provoked outrage among the public (a mind-boggling 17 percent approval number in a Quinnipiac poll); anger among the organized interests most engaged on the issue; and resistance among Republicans outside of Washington. Tellingly, only eight of 33 Republican governors signed a letter of support for the bill…

Were these ugly outcomes evidence of sheer policymaking ineptitude? Incompetence was certainly a factor, but the main reason for the bill’s flaws was the overriding priority Republicans placed on repealing the taxes on high-income households and on health care companies — taxes that had financed the Affordable Care Act. The AHCA was, above all, intended to deliver a huge tax cut to a narrow set of beneficiaries. All else flowed from this central objective.

Yep.  It is actually an amazing and historically impressive feat for the Republicans to have attained and maintained so much power when their transparently most important policy objective is tax cuts for rich people.  I also think that implies some pretty depressing things about the functioning of our democracy.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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