Sunday, May 07, 2017

Blind Squirrels & Stopped Clocks

In a time when political events veer drunkenly between the impossible and the unthinkable, one of the more surprising developments is that Mr. McArdle has written something that actually makes sense:
It’s unclear what health policy problem this bill would solve. Even for an opponent of Obamacare, it is difficult to understand why House Republicans chose this path to revamping the nation’s health care system.

It’s difficult to understand, that is, if you think they were passing a health care bill. It makes more sense when you realize that isn’t what they were doing at all. They were passing a tax cut — one intended to pave the way for more tax cuts.

The flaws of the bill, then, can be understood as a symptom of the flaws of the Republican Party, which has for decades maintained a myopic focus on tax cuts at the expense of nearly all else. Too often, it is a party of people who seem to confuse governing with cutting taxes.
Mr. McArdle goes on to explain that the point of ramming this bill through was to lower the revenue baseline by $1 trillion so when they do "tax reform" they can start out from a more advantageous position:
Republicans have consistently promoted their health care bill’s advantages as a tax cut and a setup for tax reform. After the House’s passage of the bill, President Trump said it “really helps” to get the biggest tax cut in the nation’s history.

In March, for the earlier version of the bill, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan explained the need to move quickly. “The schedule that we have here is very aggressive, and we can’t get to tax reform until we do this,” Mr. Ryan said....

[T]he focus on tax cuts explains why they were so eager to move on an unpopular bill that they had not read and struggled to defend or even describe....

Remember the primary debate moment in 2011 when all of the Republican presidential contenders said they wouldn’t trade $1 in taxes for $10 in spending cuts? The principle applies in 2017: Tax cuts are the one thing every Republican agrees on.
Yastreblyansky is right, of course, that the timing is about giving Trump a win. But it's also driven by the all-consuming obsession with cutting taxes--an obsession that has even gone too far for a libertarian hack like Mr. McArdle.

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