Rubio-Lee Tax Plan Means More Debt and Greater Income Inequality
For Republicans, there are only two certainties in life: debt and tax cuts. During his eight-year tenure, President Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt accumulated over the first two centuries of the republic. (The hemorrhaging from his 1981 tax cut would have been worse, but for 11 subsequent tax hikes the Gipper signed to help cauterize the revenue drain.) His supply-side tax-cutting successor, George W. Bush, nearly doubled the red ink. And with their massive tax-cut windfalls for the wealthy and cowardly silence about which tax breaks they'd end, Mitt Romney (20 percent across the board rate decrease) and Paul Ryan (two brackets, lower corporate tax rates) each would have left Uncle Sam at least $5 trillion poorer within 10 years.
Now, Republican Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have unveiled a new version of what they call the "Economic Growth and Family Fairness Tax Reform Plan." Unfortunately, this blueprint supposedly designed to provide help to the middle class is fairer to some families than others. And with its golden showers for the richest Americans, the Rubio-Lee proposal can only mean more debt and greater income inequality for everyone else.
Of course, you'd never know that judging by the reactions from the best and brightest among the Young Guns of the conservative movement. Ramesh Ponnuru called it "a tax plan Republicans should learn to love." Yuval Levin agreed, gushing in the National Review, "I think Ramesh is right to describe the result as 'the most pro-growth tax reform since Calvin Coolidge's presidency,' and Ryan Ellis of Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform is right to say that this is 'what pro-growth looks like in the 21st century.'" Meanwhile, James Pethokoukis proclaimed, "Marco Rubio and Mike Lee have cooked up the first great tax cut plan of the 21st century."
The near-orgasmic response of the Reformicons should come as no surprise. After all, many of the ideas in the Rubio-Lee framework had their genesis in their 2014 manual, Room to Grow: Conservative Reforms for Limited Government and a Thriving Middle Class. But as Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center lamented, there's not a whole lot for the middle class in it:
[W]hile it is not accompanied by a budget score, the elements that it specifies would add trillions of dollars to the nation's debt over the next decade. It would also likely target the bulk of these new tax cuts to high-income households.
A glance at the dramatic changes to both business and individual taxes shows why.
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