Ross Douthat Throws In the Towel
Is there any other way to read this column than as a complete abandonment of the Reformicon fight?
In some alternate America, some Earth-2 (or Earth-27), there is a Republican Party capable of putting together a health care bill that isn’t incoherent and unpopular. In some distant, misty Neverland, there is a G.O.P. capable of balancing fiscal responsibility and limited-government principle with the creativity required to address working-class America’s social crisis.
But the world is what it is, and a party that offers nothing, whose ideological sclerosis and internal contradictions allow it to offer nothing, might as well just go pass a tax cut and call it a day.
Not tax reform, which would improve the efficiency of the code. Just a plain old tax cut. That’s all he believes this GOP is capable of:
I’m not saying that Republicans couldn’t still do a comprehensive and permanent tax reform in theory. Set health care aside entirely and there are still lots of clever and plausible ways to overhaul and improve the tax code without sacrificing revenue.
You could cap various perverse deductions that mostly benefit wealthy blue-state taxpayers, like the home-mortgage and state and local tax deductions, and use the savings to lower rates across the board. You could cut the corporate tax rate and raise the capital-gains tax rate to compensate, as Senator Mike Lee has proposed. You could even (gasp, heresy, gasp) raise the top income tax rate, as Steve Bannon reportedly wants to do, and use the savings to cut payroll taxes or fund a new child tax credit.
But Republicans don’t seem equipped to pull off anything complicated, they don’t look united enough to take political risks, and they aren’t ideologically ready to pass anything heretical. So barring a sudden transformation in the party and its leadership, a temporary, deficit-financed tax cut is the only thing that has a decent chance of happening.
Douthat goes on to say that while a tax cut wouldn’t be “not the greatest idea, neither is it a terrible one” — provided that Republicans “focus on corporate and payroll taxes, on business and workers, instead of just aiming for the lowest possible top income tax rate.” But what are the odds of that?
His rousing conclusion:
Personally I can live with a Trump administration that appoints conservative judges and fails at everything else, since judicial appointments are about the only thing I trust this G.O.P. to do.
But if Congress insists on continuing to try legislating, I will give a 10-year tax cut my official Trump-era seal of approval: They could certainly do worse.
And it’s true! A party that borrows from the Chinese to give tax breaks to Wall Street financiers and billionaire heiresses would be an improvement on a party that does those things and starts catastrophic wars in the Middle East. But what are the odds we won’t get more of those, too?
No wonder he longs for a king.