GOP tax scheme fails the straight face test

The greatest trick that Republicans ever pulled was convincing people that they might pay the estate tax.

It’s a lie. Point blank and simple.

Very few people pay the estate tax, and the folks who do are extremely wealthy.

They are not small business owners and family farmers.

According to the Tax Policy Center, in the entire country there are only an estimated 80 small farms and businesses that will pay any estate tax in 2017.

Current law exempts estates valued at less than $5.49 million from the levy. It’s not a small business if it’s valued at more than $5.49 million. Most of us don’t even know someone with that kind of money.

Yet the GOP is trying to convince us that doubling the estate exemption to $11.2 million in 2018 and then eliminating it is doing all of us a favor. Like the lottery says, “dream a little, dream a lot.”

Keep dreaming.

President Donald Trump kisses a printed example of what a new tax form may look like during a meeting on tax policy with Republican lawmakers in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Nov. 2. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

When President Donald Trump gives a speech and claims that truck drivers and other small business people will pay the estate tax he’s lying.

Last week, Republicans in Washington released the details of a plan to change the tax code. They like to call it “reform,” but a better description would be a massive shift toward wealthy Americans and a few modest proposals thrown in for the everyone else.

The biggest winners are corporations, which will see their tax rate cut from 35 percent to 20 percent, and the super-rich, the Washington Post found.

When you think about tax reform, is the first thing that comes to your mind, boy Apple, Google, Walmart and Exxon Mobil pay too much in taxes? Me neither.

In fact, most people believe that corporations already aren’t paying their fair share when it comes to taxes. An ABC News/Washington Post poll in September found that 65 percent of Americans say that large corporations pay too little in taxes.

It’s like congressional Republicans saw those results and figured, what the hell, Trump’s approval ratings are already in toilet, so what do we have to lose.

According to latest ABC News/Washington Post poll released Sunday, Trump’s approval rating is 37 percent, the lowest of any president at this point in his term in 70 years of presidential polling.

With numbers that low, there’s not much to lose – you know, besides the US House of Representatives, the US Senate and legislative races all across the country.

The Republican tax plan, if it passes, would be a $1.5 trillion giveaway to corporations; cut $172 billion for super-rich people with estates valued at more than $5.49 million; and hand many of those same wealthy people $696 billion by eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax.

The AMT was created by Congress as a way to make sure wealthy taxpayers don’t manipulate loopholes to avoid paying taxes on their earnings.

There are other changes in the law that would also hurt. For example, it eliminates the ability to deduct local and state taxes and caps the deduction for property taxes.

The politics behind this change are easy to read. Blue states tend to have higher state and local tax burdens. Imagine that: Punishing Democratic leaning states with higher taxes.

Already, there’s opposition, even among some natural conservative constituencies. The National Federation of Independent Business, a very conservative lobbying organization, says it opposes the changes, as do home builders and a lot of nonprofits, which worry that it would crimp charitable giving.

Even some Republicans in Congress are already opposed.

I guess nobody knew that tax policy could be so complicated. Turns out it’s an unbelievably complex subject.

With their failed efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans faced the hard truth that they were trying to take health care away from more than 30 million Americans. People didn’t like that.

Now they trying to give $1.5 trillion away – largely with deficit spending – and they’re already fraying despite controlling the White House, the House and Senate.

Republicans have mastered elections. They basically run it all right now.

But when it comes to actually governing, the complexities of moving beyond talking points and divisive rhetoric seems to have them befuddled.

When they’re campaigning, it seems, they’ve been able to suspend the truth, the facts and even math.

But running the country is different than running your mouth in a 30-second campaign ad.

With the lesson unlearned by the health care debacle, Republicans are trying again with taxes. But to be successful, they have to convince a skeptical public that up is down, black is white and that we’re all just a pay raise away from owing the estate tax.

That doesn’t seem likely.

David Farmer

About David Farmer

David Farmer is a political and media consultant in Portland, where he lives with his wife and two children. He was senior adviser to Democrat Mike Michaud’s campaign for governor and a longtime journalist. You can reach him at