Crucial Week for Tax Reform Begins as Activists Turn Up Heat

J Scott Applewhite AP Tax Reform

(J Scott Applewhite/AP)

Monday kicks off a crucial week for tax reform as the Senate makes haste to vote on a bill and fulfill its promise of passing legislation by Christmas. This issue is going to play a role in your household income, your healthcare, government revenue, and larger issues like growing wealth inequality.

News from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) revealed the bill would add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years has played a role in making the topic newsworthy today. Public support for the bill stood at about 39% prior to Thanksgiving.


How is it covered?

Monday morning headline news following the holiday:

CNN: Prince Harry engaged to actress Meghan Markle

ABC: Prince Harry/Meghan Markle

NBC: Two acting directors at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

CBS: Tax Reform

Fox: North Korea defectors

Washington Post: Report on global garbage accumulation

New York Times: Tax Reform


The Washington Post is covering the story near the top of its front page. CNN/ABC/NBC/Fox have buried the story for now. The showdown at the CFPB is likely to be the more prevalent headline as the royal engagement news fades.

The New York Times article, “G.O.P Tries to Corral Tax Bill Holdouts Ahead of Senate Vote” tells much of the story with its headline. The barriers are political. Policy has taken a backseat. Tax reform is in the hands of 52 Republican Senators.

The lede of the article describes the opposing forces: Senate Republicans will speed their tax plan to a possible floor vote this week, and liberal activists will ramp up their efforts to block the bill, in what promises to be a frenzied stretch of an already breakneck attempt to complete a tax overhaul by Christmas.

The article provides insight into the arm-twisting taking place behind closed doors such as noting the special giveaways being considered for Republican holdouts like allowing oil drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to lure Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

The Times gives scant attention to the real life impacts of the bill.

The Washington Post article, though not a headline, provides analysis of the CBO. Individuals making less than $75,000 will see their taxes go up by 2027. The bill adds $1.4 trillion to the deficit. Millions of middle and lower income Americans will not have health insurance if the mandate is repealed. This last point calls into question how large expected medical costs will be for uninsured Americans following this bill.

Fox News presents Republican initiatives in a more favorable light and this bill is no exception.

Here is their Monday coverage of tax reform:

  • An Op-Ed by Republican Senator Rand Paul on why he supports the GOP bill
  • An Op-Ed by Republican Representative Diane Black on why she supports the GOP bill
  • A brief video on the White House’s support for tax reform
  • A brief video of Republican Senator James Lankford’s support for the GOP bill
  • An article on the estate tax

There is no hard reporting. Op-Eds and interviews release Fox from the obligation of stating opposing viewpoints. They also bypass non-partisan analyses. Take a look at Rand Paul’s Op-Ed and note how he does not address the fact that the bill raise taxes on most Americans.



Should we care about something as boring as taxes?

So the impact of the bill is largely on the backburner in the mainstream press. There are activists opposing the bill, though media has been slow to report why. And there are Republicans favoring the bill.

The opposition to the bill can boil down to any of the following:

  • The bill raises taxes on middle and low-income Americans
  • The bill raises the debt
  • The bill will cause health insurance premiums to go up
  • The bill will make health insurance less accessible
  • The bill is supported by Republicans
  • The bill removes deductions used by many Americans

Tax Reform CBO analysis 11.27.17

And for many out there making phone calls, there is a more personal reason. This is not abstract. For millennials living paycheck to paycheck, the threat of higher health insurance costs, higher taxes, and the inability to deduct student loan interest is going to have real consequences.

The support of the bill can boil down to the following:

  • The bill lowers taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans
  • The bill severely damages Obamacare
  • The bill aims to make doing one’s own taxes easier
  • The bill releases Americans from the mandate to purchase health insurance
  • The bill is a political victory for Republicans
  • The bill paves the way for future calls to cut government spending on Social Security and Medicare

Note the difference between these reasons and those above. The benefits to those supporting the bill are abstract (Republicans can tell their constituents they can get things done) or benefit a small group of people (the estate tax applies to less than 1 in 550).


How do real people feel about the tax bill?

Look at the arguments in favor of and against the bill and determine what matters most to you. Understand that there are demonstrations across the country because the bill will have a real impact on how people live.

Also be aware that those supporting the bill may have only been hearing one side of the story. How many Fox viewers would change their mind if Fox had Op-Eds from cancer patients or low-income wage earners?

And note that people’s opinions are largely based on political leanings. Politico polling showed support/opposition strongly correlates with political party. Independents are the most likely to be undecided.


What can I do?

The tentative plan is for Republicans to vote on Thursday. That may be pushed back depending on how the behind-closed-door haggling goes. The quickest, most direct action you can take is to call your Senators today.

Here is a list of Republicans on the fence regarding the bill published by The Hill.

You can take this action whether you support or oppose the bill.

We mentioned the activists. There are dozens of efforts aimed at stopping the bill. Some of these are included below. Note that organized grassroots efforts in support of the bill are nearly non-existent at this time.

Not One Penny is a group focused solely on this issue. They created a call app where you can input your info and get connected to your Representative. They also have a map with events.

MoveOn has a number of local events. They’re calling this “caroling” in the spirit of holidays. Events are organized at the local level, but the caroling may be mixed in with chants against Republicans as you march.

Indivisible set up a website, to provide details tailored to your state. The details give you Senators contact info, how many would lose health insurance, and how many would see a tax increase.

Organizing for Action has a day of action planned for Tuesday, 11/28. Find events in your zip code through this page. If you like getting with a bunch of people to make phone calls, this is a good choice.

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