On taxes, GOP brings sledgehammer to wrecking ball fight

After years of big promises, tax reform package is underwhelming

Adam Sullivan is a writer, activist and communications adviser in Iowa City.
Adam Sullivan is a writer, activist and communications adviser in Iowa City.

Republicans proclaim they’re making historic progress on tax reform. Excuse me for being a little underwhelmed.

All three of Iowa’s GOP representatives voted in favor of the tax reform package in the U.S. House last week, while our lone Democrat voted against it. Liberals are finding plenty to criticize, while conservatives line up behind it.

It looks like the fiercely anti-government Republicans we saw during the Obama era are missing. Our party controls Congress and the White House, yet our leaders have repeatedly stopped short of bold commitments they made on tax reform and other issues.

We were promised a wrecking ball, but we’re getting a sledgehammer instead.

The GOP tax bill would trim an estimated $1.5 trillion from Americans’ federal taxes over the next 10 years. The right-leaning Tax Foundation estimates it could help create nearly 10,000 new jobs in Iowa, and boost an average family’s after-tax income by $2,246.

The legislation, more than 400 pages, was released for public view only about two weeks before it was voted on. Any version coming out of the Senate will likely have substantial changes.

I’m inclined to support any proposal that lets people keep more of their own money and reduces government revenue, but the Republican proposal doesn’t seem historic to me.

This legislation leaves the foundation of our dysfunctional tax system in place, while tinkering with some of the variables. Our tax code will remain many thousands of pages, too complicated to grasp for Americans without lawyers and accountants. Our government will continue to practice social engineering and corporate welfare through tax deductions and credits.


Republican Reps. Rod Blum, David Young, and Steve King all issued statements in support of the “historic” House tax bill, though each voiced reservations as well.

Young said only he wants to see “needed improvements” in the Senate version. Blum singled out historic restoration tax credits, which he supports but the most recent version of the bill would end.

King also called the tax bill “historic,” but issued a lengthy statement criticizing the House for not repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate tax penalty.

I don’t say this very often, but Steve King is exactly right on this one.

Eliminating the individual mandate would save the federal government more than $300 billion over 10 years, according to a Congressional Budget Office report, because fewer people would sign up for federally subsidized health care coverage. Background research from King’s office shows more than 80 percent of Iowans paying the individual mandate penalties make less than $50,000 annually.

I am frustrated the same Republicans who spent six years campaigning against Obamacare are now passing up their chance to eliminate one of its least popular provisions.

A few Senate Republicans have already signaled they won’t support the House bill, nibbling away the party’s tiny majority in the Senate. Lacking a plan to cut spending too, they’re right to be wary.

Republicans are thirsty for a major accomplishment, but they won’t find it here.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com


MORE At Liberty by Adam Sullivan ARTICLES TO READ NEXT ...

I was reacquainted with an old friend last year, after nearly a decade apart.The American anti-war movement measurably dwindled under the Obama administration, even as the president continued or expanded many of the controversial ...

Not all marijuana is created equally.Muscatine County law enforcement authorities made national headlines this month after they reportedly confiscated cannabis products from local business owners. The county insists those products ...

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.

Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.