The skeleton warriors of the GOP
Fixing the GOP tax bill would be easy. Too bad they won't do it.
The best way to make sense of the Republican Party's present woes, I think, is to recall Skeleton Warriors, an obscure children's program that ran on CBS circa 1995.
Skeleton Warriors concerned the efforts of one Baron Dark to cement his position among the aristocracy on a faraway planet by means of one of more magic crystals. He was a well-bred modern gentleman in many respects, but Prince Lightstar and the rest of the well-heeled castle cabal, to say nothing of the peasant folk, insisted that so far from being a good-natured reformer, what he really wanted to do was rule the planet or the galaxy or the universe or whatever on behalf of the titular skeleton mercenaries.
Why couldn't Dark get a fair shake? Maybe the problem was that the good Baron, alas, spent much of his time hanging out with a band of heavily armed magic-wielding skeleton thugs, including an especially menacing eight-limbed fellow actually named, Wikipedia reminds me, Aracula. I suppose the fact that Dark was himself a fleshless corpse didn't help matters.
Republican politicians have got to feel a lot like Baron Dark right about now.
Despite their every protest that they are not, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) recently put it, merely a vehicle for "country-club big business" interests, ordinary voters, including those in red states, cannot shake the feeling that a party for whom cutting the corporate tax rate to 20 percent is a non-negotiable exercise in fiscal prudence but making the child tax credit refundable is a fringe, crypto-Stalinist sop to greedy poors is probably not on their side.
Some will complain about "messaging" and the party's "image" and the way their tax bill has been represented in the media. This is empty rubbish. It is true that critics have exaggerated the badness of the current bill. Critics also exaggerated the badness of The Adventure of Pluto Nash. That doesn't make it a good movie.
The simplest way to convince people that you care more about the well-being of working families than you do about the bottom lines of ultra-wealthy corporations is to — wait for it — actually pass legislation that prioritizes the interests of the former over those of the latter. It would not be difficult.
The first step would be for GOP leadership to insist that the amendment introduced by Rubio and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) raising the child tax credit and making it refundable against payroll taxes — you know, those things that everybody, even people making $24,000 a year at Chipotle, pay — be inserted as a condition of any further action on the bill. Millions of people who have never even considered voting for a Republican would find their lives improved by this sane and comparatively inexpensive measure.
The second one would involve the estate tax. Republicans, it is impossible for you to lose anything by insisting on leaving it where it is. The Democrats are not going to court the Sam Walton estate with a more lucrative package the minute you announce that you are removing the generous death tax provision from the bill. I know that even before finishing that sentence the head of the average Republican lawmaker will be spinning at the thought of all the campaign contributions he might lose out on, but try to stay focused, guys: The idea is that you care about regular people who don't have estates, remember?
Next, time for another about-face. Your instincts were in the right place for once when you said you were capping the mortgage interest deduction at $500,000. People whose homes are worth more than that don't need the full benefit and many wouldn't vote for you anyway. Again: This is about poor people, many of whom have never dreamed of purchasing a home at all, thanks in large part to grossly inflated prices that things like the unlimited mortgage interest deductions beloved of builder and realtor lobbying groups abet.
Finally, the next time you are having lunch with a lobbyist for WokeTech or Copyrighted Chinese Plastic Emporium, excuse yourself politely from the table. Head to the bathroom, bringing a pen and napkin with you. Write down the number 35 and all the other natural numbers occurring between it and 20. Cross out 35 and 20. Then close your eyes and put your finger on the napkin. Whatever number it lights on is what the new corporate tax rate should be. It might be 34 or 21: The point is that it is not 20. You are showing people that you can compromise because you are, in fact, a public servant rather than a lapdog for the guy who was just feeding you.
Whatever you come up with after doing all this is probably still going to be relentlessly attacked and almost certainly misrepresented by your opponents. You should expect this. It is, after all, what you did with everything the Democrats ever attempted to pass during Barack Obama's presidency, even the things set in motion by his predecessors that you had been okay with the year before. But at least it's a credible place to start, which is more than poor Baron Dark ever had going for him.