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Trump Voters And The Tax Plan


Senate Republican leaders plan to vote on a tax plan as soon as this week. Some senators are on the fence about this plan, which cuts business taxes and the estate tax among other things - but under which many families would pay more according to independent analysts. President Trump supports this plan, but what about some who voted for him? Chris Buskirk joins us once again. He's publisher of the website American Greatness and hosts a call-in show in Phoenix from which he joins us.

Good morning.

CHRIS BUSKIRK: Good morning, how are you?

INSKEEP: I'm doing fine. Thanks very much. So I just want to remember that President Trump said he was campaigning for the forgotten man. Is he doing that by cutting corporate taxes and the estate tax, which is only paid by fairly wealthy people, while some middle-class families actually would pay more?

BUSKIRK: Yeah. This - I mean, this tax bill is in a little bit of a mixed bag. There's no sense denying that part of it. I think on the one hand, if you look at the corporate tax rate, the argument there - and it's an argument that I think is correct, I think it holds water - is that if you reduce taxes on large corporations - well, small and large corporations, for that matter - that you make the United States more competitive. This is a part of President Trump's campaign agenda where he said, you know, we want to bring jobs back home; we don't want American companies going abroad for tax reasons.

So we want to reduce the corporate tax rate in a way that makes the United States more competitive with other industrialized countries around the world. So that part is good, and to the extent that these companies are located here in the United States and invest here, that creates more jobs. So that's good for the middle class and the working class. And I think that's a good thing. On the individual side...


BUSKIRK: It's just a - it's a little bit of a hodgepodge that is - I think that's true. I think a lot of people who supported President Trump think it's a hodgepodge, too. You know, the big sticking point in the individual side of this tax bill is the treatment of state income taxes. You know, currently, they're - they are deductible on your federal income tax, which is effectively the federal government subsidizing high state income tax rates. That's the way it's been for a long time. It's good for people. And so what happens is, you kind of get this situation where somebody in Arizona, for instance - where I am - will - sort of middle-class, average American family - will get a tax cut under this bill. Somebody in a high income tax state - California or New York, someplace like that...

INSKEEP: Yeah. Well, let me ask about how this happens. I'm not sure that hodgepodge quite captures it when you have the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center saying that 50 percent of taxpayers would pay higher taxes within a decade. The New York Times has an analysis with a lot of people paying higher taxes next year in 2018. And let's consider how this happened. You say the president wants to cut the business tax, and we could debate whether that's good for the economy or not. You've argued that it is. There's a debate there. It's fine.

But then Republicans want to pass that tax cut and this estate tax cut for people with more than $11 million to leave their heirs, and they want to do it with Republican votes only through these rules that don't allow them to increase the deficit all that much. And so they end up - to get the money back - well, they're basically loading it on the forgotten man, aren't they?

BUSKIRK: Well, they're loading it on - I think there's some truth to that. I mean, they're loading it onto taxpayers, particularly in high income tax states. It's not across the board. It's very much geographically dispersed. I'll be honest with you. I think that they painted themselves into a box here because of the rules that they're trying to follow in the Senate on not increasing the deficit.

And one of the ironies - and I hear this from people - just your sort of - your forgotten-man type of person all the time, which is that Congress only really seems to care about reducing the deficit or talks about caring about reducing the deficit when they're talking about taxes. It seems to be a much less vigorous debate when they're talking about the spending side of the ledger. And so, you know, all of this is viewed I think with a little bit of a wry eye by people - you know, your ordinary person who's actually putting the tax bill - and it...

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about a thing that Republicans have said. They've said, well, because of these budget rules, we have to impose tax increases - effective tax increases on some people, but we have faith that Congress is just going to fix that later, which I guess would mean increasing the deficit more later. Do you have any faith that Congress, if it's unable to pass a tax cut now for ordinary people, is just going to do it later?

BUSKIRK: No, I don't. I mean, it's possible, but I think it's a challenge. I mean, the - what people say - and I think this is absolutely right. I hear this from people who call into the show all the time - which is that the Republicans in Congress say, well, the House rules or the Senate rules or this or that. Guess what? If you don't like them and you think that they're bad policy, you can change the rules. And maybe that was a better plan that - maybe that was a better way to go early on in the process rather than to throw your hands up as the United States Congress and say, oh, gee, there's these rules that we just don't have any control over. Everybody knows they control those rules. If there's a better policy, they should pass that.

INSKEEP: In a couple of seconds - they're in this mess because they want to pass this tax plan with only Republican votes. If they had Democratic votes, they could do things differently under different rules. Do you sense any appetite from the audience you talk with - in a few seconds - to - any appetite for cooperating with Democrats?

BUSKIRK: I think there's an appetite on the Republican side to do it. I'm not so sure that there's an appetite on the Democrat side to do it. You know, there's the policy part of this debate, and then there's the politics part of this debate. You know, I think on balance, the policy part of the tax bill is OK. It's kind of a C, C-plus. The politics part of it is that the Democrats want to deny the president or Republicans a win, and Republicans are desperate to get one.

INSKEEP: Chris, always a pleasure talking with you - thank you very much.

BUSKIRK: Thanks a bunch.

INSKEEP: That's Chris Buskirk, radio talk show host and publisher of American Greatness.