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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Republicans Lose the Tax Messaging Battle

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign.  

 Sahil Kapur  and Joshua Green at Bloomberg:
A survey commissioned by the Republican National Committee has led the party to a glum conclusion regarding President Donald Trump’s signature legislative achievement: Voters overwhelmingly believe his tax overhaul helps the wealthy instead of average Americans.

By a 2-to-1 margin -- 61 percent to 30 percent -- respondents said the law benefits “large corporations and rich Americans” over “middle class families,” according to the survey, which was completed on Sept. 2 by the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies and obtained by Bloomberg News.

The result was fueled by self-identified independent voters who said by a 36-point margin that large corporations and rich Americans benefit more from the tax law -- a result that was even more lopsided among Democrats. Republican voters said by a 38-point margin that the middle class benefits more.
When it comes to approval for the tax overhaul, American voters remain torn -- 44 percent favor it and 45 percent oppose it.
“Voters are evenly divided on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” the RNC-commissioned report said. “But, we’ve lost the messaging battle on the issue.”
Paul Waldman at WP:
The reality is not in dispute. Around two-thirds of the benefits of the tax cuts went to those in the top quintile of taxpayers, with about 20 percent of the benefits going to the richest 1 percent. By 2025, when the cuts are fully phased in, the top 1 percent will get 25 percent of the benefits. (See details here.) The centerpiece of the plan, furthermore, was a gigantic corporate tax cut. Republicans promised that this cut would produce a wave of investment and wage increases for workers, but so far the only wave that has resulted is a tsunami of stock buybacks benefiting wealthy shareholders, which is exactly what liberals predicted.
Those facts are available to anyone who might seek them out, but most people aren’t going to. What people do notice, however, is that their paychecks didn’t look much bigger after the tax cut. Maybe they’re getting a few more dollars a week, but it certainly wasn’t life-transforming.
That probably influences perceptions, but I’d contend that where Republicans really lost was not in the fact-checking and media analyses (close as those are to my heart) or even in people’s paychecks, but in the relentless Democratic messaging on this issue. It had the benefit of being 1) easy to understand, 2) consistent with what people already believed about Republicans, and 3) completely true. Democrats repeated over and over that this was a tax cut for the wealthy and corporations, which it was. And they didn’t have to work particularly hard to convince voters that passing a tax cut for the rich is the kind of thing Republicans do, because we’ve seen it so many times before.