House Republican Tax Plan Already Unpopular
House Republicans were supposed to unveil the full text of the tax reform bill they intend to try to pass by Christmas today, but that announcement was rescheduled to tomorrow, apparently because they haven’t reached a final agreement on key provisions of the bill such as the impact on those falling into the highest tax bracket and the fate of popular deductions such as the deduction for mortgage interest and state property taxes. Notwithstanding that delay, the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reports that the Republican plan as it has been outlined is already unpopular:
WASHINGTON — House Republicans are facing a major disadvantage with their tax plan, even before they delayed the rollout of their bill by one day.
Their plan starts out underwater, according to our latest NBC/WSJ poll — and by about the same margin as the poll’s first track of George W. Bush’s failed effort to partially privatize Social Security.
In this new NBC/WSJ poll, 25 percent call Trump’s tax plan a good idea, versus 35 percent who call it a bad idea (-10). And nearly four-in-10 Americans — 39 percent — do not have an opinion.
By comparison, here is how the major legislative efforts over the last 13 years started out in the NBC/WSJ poll under this same good idea-vs.-bad idea question:
- December 2004: George W. Bush’s Social Security privatization effort: 38 percent good idea, 50 percent bad idea (-12); 12 percent not sure/no opinion.
- January 2009: Barack Obama’s economic stimulus: 43 percent good idea, 27 percent bad idea (+16); 30 percent not sure/undecided.
- April 2009: Barack Obama’s health-care bill: 33 percent good idea, 26 percent bad idea (+7); 41 percent not sure/undecided.
- October 2017: Donald Trump’s tax plan: 25 percent good idea, 35 percent bad idea (-10); 39 percent not sure/no opinion.
“Trump and Republicans have a long way to go … to convince people of the merits of the plan,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, who conducted the survey with the Democratic firm Hart Research Associates.
Indeed, 25 percent of respondents in the poll say they’ll pay more in taxes under the plan, 14 percent say they’ll pay less and 21 percent say they’ll pay about the same. Forty percent say they don’t know enough about the plan.
In addition, only 19 percent think the plan will improve the economy “a great deal” or “quite a bit,” compared with a combined 66 percent who answer “just some” or “not at all.”
And 32 percent the plan will increase the federal deficit by a “great deal” or “quite a bit,” while 49 percent who say “just some” or “not at all.”
To be fair, an examination of the poll results reveals that respondents were asked their opinion about “President Trump’s tax plan” and whether or not respondents thought it was a good idea, a bad idea, or whether they had no opinion. Given the fact that this is the same poll which reflects that the President’s job approval has hit yet another low and that his favorability numbers have gotten worse, it’s possible that phrasing the question in this matter had an impact on how people responded to the questions about the tax plan. Additionally it’s worth noting that the largest segment of those responding in the poll, some 39%, said that they don’t have an opinion one way or the other. Nonetheless, these numbers do seem to indicate that Republicans will have an uphill battle in selling their tax reform package to a public that is already skeptical about it. Additionally, if it is true that labeling the plan “President tax plan” has a negative impact on public perception of the bill, you can rest assured that Democrats will do everything they can to hang the President and his negative poll numbers around the necks of House Republicans and their tax bill. They’ll call it “President Trump’s tax plan” at every opportunity, most especially when they are speaking in forums where they know they’re likely to reach a wide number of people. In many ways, this isn’t dissimilar to the way Republicans approached the health care issue while the Affordable Care Act was making its way through Congress. In very short order, they started to call the bill “Obamacare,” and while the Obama Administration tried for a time to turn that into a positive, but it quickly became a device by which Republicans were able to rally the Tea Party behind them and we’re at the point now where “Obamacare” has become part of the political lexicon. If Democrats succeed in doing the same with the tax reform package, it could end up having a seriously negative impact on the bills fate in both the House and the Senate.
Leaving aside the political lexicon, the fact that the tax reform package is already deemed negatively by a significant segment of the public is the least of the problems that Republicans face. After tomorrow’s formal release of the bill, it will be available for everyone to examine, pick apart, and criticize. Various interest groups ranging from the construction industry to advocates of different kinds of reform will be examining the bill to see how it may impact them and the industries they represents. Pundits on both sides of the aisles will start pontificating and advocating for and against the bill, and there will be tremendous pressure on Member of Congress and the Senate who appear to be on the fence regarding the plan. All of this will happen while Congress operates on a very short time frame. While there are nearly two months between now and Christmas, the actual number of days that Congress is scheduled to be in session is quite small. Getting the matter to a final vote even only in the House of Representatives will not be an easy task, and if the bill becomes even more unpopular it will become even more difficult. After that, the matter will move to the Senate. While Mitch McConnell apparently intends to utilize the budget reconciliation process to get the bill through the Senate, meaning that the sixty-vote threshold for ordinary legislation will not apply, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee passage. As we saw with the effort to ‘repeal and replace’ the Affordable Care Act, that’s easier said than done, and it’s unlikely that the process in the Senate could be done by Christmas no matter how quickly the House acts.