Matt Yglesias is gone—having moved on to work for Ezra Klein’s Project X. I’m sure he will be back soon with his usual interesting take on politics and economics. But I was reminded of something he wrote back in September, Mike Lee’s Tax Plan Looks Like Smoke and Mirrors to Me. Senator Lee had come out with a revenue neutral tax plan that cut taxes on the middle class by raising them on the wealthy. Or so it seemed.
As Jonathan Chait reminds us, “Conservative reformers swooned—here, finally, yet again, was the policy seriousness the party had been waiting for. Reihan Salam praised the plan as ‘genuinely new thinking.’ Ross Douthat called it a ‘noteworthy breakthrough’ and hailed it in two other columns.” You have to wonder if these intelligent conservatives get tired of constantly having to pretend that the conservatives they champion are somehow really trying to do what they claim instead of what they are really trying to do: take from the poor, give to the rich, and obscure the fact that they are doing so.
Even Josh Barro wrote, FINALLY: A Republican Tax Plan That Doesn’t Suck. I really wonder about Barro. Just the other day he was out apologizing for Ryan’s poverty report, pointing out the three decent things that are in it, because no one else will. It has to be exhausting. And it is plain that he knows what’s going on. He knows what Ryan is actually doing. I just hope Barro is being well paid. (It’s doubtful.)
But at that time when Barro and Salam and Douthat were wanking off to the cause, Matt Yglesias called it:
People like me, in other words. Except Josh Barro, in the course of gushing over the plan, confessed that despite being an affluent childless person his taxes would fall under Lee’s plan. So I ran it with my numbers and found the same thing. If I weren’t married, Lee would saddle me with a small tax hike thanks to the reduced value of the mortgage tax deduction. But I am married, so my wife and I—the very picture of Blue America decadence in Logan Circle with no kids—are in line for a tax cut.
Now if it’s actually true that you can meet all of Mike Lee’s goals consistent with giving me a small tax cut, then good for him. But I’m suspicious that what we’ve got here is simply a tax plan that doesn’t add up.
Well, it doesn’t.
The Tax Policy Center is out with a report on Mike Lee’s tax plan, Preliminary Analysis of The Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform Act. “TPC estimates that the plan would reduce tax revenues by $2.4 trillion over the ten-year budget period, 2014-2023…” So it isn’t revenue neutral. And while it lowers taxes on people in pretty much all income groups, it reduces taxes on the wealthy the most. So it’s basically just the Bush tax cuts again. Of course it is! The Republican plan is always the same: cut taxes on the rich and throw a few crumbs to the rest so they don’t squawk.
But don’t worry. I’m sure Josh Barro can come up with three things that are good about Lee’s tax plan, just in case MSNBC wants to do a segment on it.
Meanwhile, I await Matt Yglesias’ return.