Tax Reform: How You Can Shape the Debate

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The Republican party is making a push to achieve tax reform before the end of the year. Tax reform is convoluted. The legislative process is convoluted. Neither is telegenic. Therefore, it is a true quagmire for major media to report on. But this is going to impact how much you save or spend each year, and how much revenue the government has to invest in services affecting every community.

Some sources, like the New York Times and Washington Post, are tackling this in bites. We will get to how in a second. Others, like CNN and Fox, have nearly expunged any mention of the tax bill on their websites.

The House unveiled their “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” last week. While it continues to be analyzed, the bill is currently being worked on in Congress. This means we are going to see a transformed bill by the time Congress comes closer to voting on it.

 

Is tax reform worth paying attention to?

If you value the money you pay in taxes each year, then yes. If you value where the money you pay in taxes goes, then yes.

Many groups are facing steep increases in taxes under this plan. In terms of net savings, you may be negatively impacted if any of the following apply:

You have high out-of-pocket medical expenses

You are a small business owner

You own property and/or have a mortgage

You deduct interest paid on student loans

You deduct the cost of health insurance as a self-employed worker

You have a high income but it derives from a salary

You don’t want a tax bill codifying when life begins

Now you may be negatively impacted if you are a middle class earner. The Republican party is repeating the mantra that middle class taxes will not go up. This is not true.

You will be positively impacted if you are:

An heir to an estate

Paying the alternative minimum tax

A large multinational corporation

Fall into more than one of those categories? That is another reason why it is so difficult to answer what the result of this tax plan would be.

 

Is the media covering tax reform as major news?

In some ways, yes. This is not a headline story this week. The events and aftermath of the Texas shooting continue to dominate news coverage.

Tax reform was a notch below those stories in the New York Times and Washington Post. CNN’s coverage is limited to an article on how adoptions would be impacted and a clip of Representative Levin castigating the bill.  has no reporting on tax reform today. Fox News is limited its opinion piece to an Op-Ed.

The New York Times piece, “Republican Plan Would Raise Tax on Millions” is a stab at unpacking what this bill actually does. The Times notes that their analysis is based on a tax model devised by the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

The article sticks close to the tax analysis. Typically media chooses to report on political implications when topics become too complex. The New York Times largely avoids that in this piece.

But the piece is clear that wealthy families and corporations will benefit. That is a damning statement to the other 99% of the population. Supporters of the plan would argue that the Times neglects to point out that “job creators” benefit, which in turn helps lift everybody else. That is a specious claim. But it is oft-repeated by Republicans.

The other claim supporters of the bill could make is that the Times does not adequately address that many non-millionaires will receive tax cuts. The truth of this is more difficult to assess because, as the Times points out, there will be regional factors to account for and deductions eliminated.

Marketing does not lend itself to nuance though. And that is how you end up with a headline summarizing the state of the tax debate – “Republican Plan Would Raise Tax on Millions.”

Fox News, champion of all Trump endorsed proposals, breaks its own narrative today by printing an Op-Ed that does not support the plan. The piece, “I’m a conservative and I hate the Republican tax plan” is written by by Karol Markowicz, a NY Post columnist.

The piece attacks the plan for failing in its own goals to simplify the tax code and eliminating deductions that really don’t need to be eliminated. The piece is heavily steeped in avowals of “conservatism” and what it should or could mean.

Fox rarely breaks its narrative. So let’s keep this in perspective. This is an Op-Ed at the bottom of the website. This is not near any of the dozen or so main stories that Fox rotates.

 

How is this interpreted by the other side?

Tax plan GOP.png

For readers of the Times and Washington Post, this is a big deal. This is another move by the Republican Congress to grant giveaways to corporations and millionaires. This is not a bill that would help people pay off student loans, medical expenses, or mortgages.

More deeply, the bill distills the core of the Republican party. Elected officials operate like corporate shills.

As a result, this bill is further evidence that the Republican party is morally bankrupt. The party controls all three branches of government.

For Fox readers, the tax plan is barely news at all. The focus remains on the Texas shooting. Fox has a tendency to bury stories that don’t conform to its Trump-first narrative. This is the latest example.

Fox readers would find that the bill’s main failure is its ability to live up to an abstract conception of “conservatism.” But this is separate from the real world implications of paying more or less in taxes.

To the extent that the tax debate is reaching Fox followers, it comes in the form of Trump claims that the middle class will benefit.

Here is how it’s being conveyed to TV viewers:

 

So one side sees this as a threat to democracy. First the GOP Congress tried to take away healthcare, now they’re moving on to create an oligarchy.

The other side sees this as a plan that will cut taxes. But the Democrats are opposing it.

 

What can you do?

More details will continue to emerge, but determine how this plan will affect you. Do you take advantage of any deductions in line to be eliminated?

Or maybe more broadly, you feel that growing wealth inequality is a legitimate threat to our country?

Or perhaps you think this bill is on the right track?

Pick a way this impacts you and tell your Congressperson. Input from constituents is going to shape what happens to this bill. Outrage saved healthcare. But silence can move this bill through Congress and into law by the end of the year.

Choose to either write to Congress or call your member of Congress this week. Tell them whether you support or oppose it. Tell them why. See how one Representative cites the pleas from his constituents:

 

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