The (relative) pomp of Donald Trump's inauguration will be getting wall-to-wall TV coverage today. But behind the scenes, staffers have been hard at work since way before the election, putting together the legislative agenda for the new administration. The earliest item on Congress' agenda, of course, will be repealing (and maybe replacing?) ObamaCare. But hot on the heels of health care reform comes welfare reform.
You probably already know that Republicans like cutting taxes. Oh we do love us some tax cuts. Particularly on the rich. Gotta make that money trickle down.
But what taxes are going to be cut, and how? There are a few ideas floating around. Paul Ryan has a tax plan. Donald Trump had a tax plan on his website while he was running for president, but who knows if or how it will actually be put in place.
The most interesting idea regarding tax reform actually comes from someone who's neither the president nor a member of Congress: It's Ivanka Trump, who has been working behind the scenes as an inspirator of Trump's campaign-trail tax reform proposal, which has a pro-family lean to it. It would make childcare expenses deductible from income taxes, and would institute mandatory maternity leave, paid for by the government.
Trump won the GOP nomination in large part by waging full-on warfare against many GOP sacred cows. It's been, shall we say, a mixed blessing, but on this issue of family tax relief, it's been a tonic.
One big reason why the Trumpocalypse has been possible is because the GOP cut itself off from its working-class base. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the area of tax reform, where naïve fake trickle-down economics reigned. Don't get me wrong: I'm a conservative, and I think cutting taxes on the rich is just fine. It's just that it shouldn't be priority number one, two, and three all at the same time. The GOP should focus its tax cutting might on the working class, and in particular on working-class families.
This is one of the few places where Trump's ideological shaking up of the GOP might be really useful. Tax relief for working families is a great idea, and it seems to be getting increased political momentum, with backing not just from Donald or Ivanka Trump, but from Congressional Republicans, as well.
Two of the most influential and interesting Republican senators, Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, published a letter this week to the chairmen and ranking members of the Finance and Ways and Means committees, signaling their support of pro-family tax reform. Here's a sampling of the letter:
"[T]ax reform should not only reduce the burdens that businesses face, but also do the same for working families. Families are the building blocks of our country, the fundamental units of society, and vital to passing down our values from generation to generation. Strong families are also incubators of economic opportunity, financial security, and generate the social capital upon which our free enterprise economy and constitutional republic depend." [Rubio and Lee]
The two senators have long championed a child-tax credit that is refundable against not just income, but payroll taxes. This is a great, because it means it would reach working families who might not earn enough to be subject to federal income tax.
The senators seem open to several ways of reaching the goal of providing tax relief to working-class families. "Other policy options might produce similar results, but we believe the solution should benefit as many parents as possible, and especially that it not privilege wealthier families, or discriminate against [parents] who choose to stay at home."
There's a battle going on, which is in some ways a battle for the soul of the GOP: Is it the party of the rich, or is it the party of working-class families? In many ways, this debate about tax credits sounds very technical. But it's really about the future of the Republican Party — and the country.