Rampell: Apparently, Republicans want to kick middle class in the face

It’s not enough to give money to rich people. Apparently, Republicans want to kick the poor and middle class in the face, too.

I used to think the Republican Party’s obsession with top-heavy tax cuts was about pleasing wealthy donors and maybe also fulfilling some misguided Randian fantasy. If the poor and middle class happened to be collateral damage, so be it.

But it’s starting to look like shafting the little guy has become a feature, not a bug, of the GOP’s budget-busting tax plan.

In years past, they at least offered a few goodies to so-called regular Americans. Take the George W. Bush tax cuts: Some of the provisions helped the middle class and poor. The 2001 legislation made the Child Tax Credit partially refundable, for instance, which for the first time allowed many poor families to receive it.

More important, the Bush tax cuts didn’t actually raise taxes on any households, according to estimates from the Tax Policy Center.

This time around, Republicans are offsetting their tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy by hiking them further down the income distribution.

Yes, it’s true that lower- and middle-income households would get a tax cut initially. But according to Congress’ own official nonpartisan scorekeepers, by 2027 the Senate tax bill would actually raise taxes on households making less than $75,000.

No wonder this bill is less popular than any major change in federal tax policy since at least 1981.

But wait, it gets worse.

This tax bill is merely a prelude to, or perhaps an excuse for, shredding the social safety net.

According to lawmakers’ own official scorekeepers, the Senate bill would cost $1 trillion over the coming decade, even after accounting for additional economic growth.

And in recent days and weeks, prominent Republicans have pledged to patch over this budget hole by cutting programs that millions of Americans need to get by.

At an event last Wednesday, for example, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., linked tax cuts to coming entitlement cuts.

“Many argue that you can’t cut taxes because it will drive up the deficit,” he said. “But we have to do two things. We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future.”

At a recent town hall, when asked why the tax bill wasn’t paid for through spending cuts, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., assured the audience that spending cuts would be coming quite soon.

Even President Donald Trump, supposed defender of the downtrodden, remarked at a recent Cabinet meeting: “We’re looking very strongly at welfare reform, and that will all take place right after taxes, very soon, very shortly after taxes.”

It’s worth noting that if Trump signs tax cuts into law in December, some spending cuts would be triggered automatically in January. Medicare alone would be slashed by $25 billion between January and September.

Such cuts would be triggered by a law known as statutory PAYGO, which was designed to promote fiscal responsibility. Overriding the law requires 60 Senate votes. Even if Democrats get on board with cleaning up the GOP’s budget mess, recent comments suggest not all Senate or House Republicans may choose to join them.

Income inequality is near record highs, and yet Republicans’ regressive tax and spending plans forge forward. It’s time for voters to ask their elected officials: How much upward distribution of wealth will ever be enough?

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