Last Thursday, Republicans in the Senate were trashing a nonpartisan congressional office's analysis that the tax reform bill would blow a $1.4 trillion hole in the deficit. On Monday, The New York Times reported that it was part of a coordinated effort by the GOP to shoot the messenger:
Public statements and messaging documents obtained by The New York Times show a concerted push by Republican lawmakers to discredit a nonpartisan agency they had long praised. Party leaders circulated two pages of “response points” that declared “the substance, timing and growth assumptions of J.C.T.’s ‘dynamic’ score are suspect.”
The irony, as we mentioned then, was that the Joint Committee on Taxation had used a scoring method that Republicans had been demanding for years they use to arrive at this conclusion. Whoops.
Imagine if the GOP had put all that effort into writing a solid bill instead of taking the time to trash the total mess they did write.
This effort is part of a pattern by Republicans across the government to shut down any analysis that told them something they did not want to hear about the tax reform plan.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, for example, reportedly ignored and shut out the analysis process of the Treasury Department's own in-house tax policy experts who were skeptical of the administration's claims.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told NPR's Steve Inskeep that all analysis to the contrary, he simply does not believe the deficit projections that almost every analysis is predicting.
Mitch McConnell, according to the Times, also decided to just ignore all gloomy predictions about the bill's effect on the nation's fiscal health:
“I’m totally confident this is a revenue-neutral bill,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told reporters early Saturday morning after the vote. “Actually a revenue producer.”
Republicans had a variety of reasons for pushing tax reform so quickly. For one, they did not want the public to have too much time to organize opposition to it. For another, big-money donors were pushing for it and threatening to withhold funds for re-election campaigns next year.
But one widely reported motivation was simply that GOP congressional leaders wanted to give themselves and President Donald Trump a big win in the first year of the latter's administration. They wanted to prove that having been given unified control of the government, Republicans can genuinely govern, not just obstruct as they did for so much of the Obama administration.
They have instead proven the opposite. In their craven rush to show that they can govern, they have passed an irresponsible bill that all reasonable analysis predicts will increase taxes on the poor and middle classes within a decade. And they have trashed governmental agencies that told them something they did not want to hear, a move that could discourage the career employees that staff these places and even drive them to look for work outside the government.
The practical effect is that the next time there is a major bill that needs analysis, there will be fewer smart people within the government to do the work. And the Republican Party, having trashed the past work of offices like the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office, will point to their analysis of the tax reform bill as reason to be even less inclined to listen to them anyway.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.