After spending months selling a healthcare plan that proposed kicking millions off their insurance and gutting crucial safety net programs, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has now shifted his focus to tax reform, where he hopes to provide significant tax relief to the wealthiest Americans.
"Middle-class Americans will see their basic standards of living reduced by Ryan's plans, just so that the rich and huge corporations can get a giant tax cut."
—Frank Clemente, Americans for Tax Fairness
On Tuesday, after weeks of failing to offer any details on his ambitious plan to permanently overhaul the tax code, Ryan made his first major pitch to the National Association of Manufacturers—a business advocacy group that has in the past received funding from the Koch brothers.
Those longing for concrete proposals were likely disappointed by the speech, however, as Ryan opted to focus on familiar GOP talking points—like the claim that massive tax cuts will have a positive effect on job growth—in the place of gritty details.
But the few specific details Ryan did offer, like his proposal to eliminate both the estate tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax, provided sufficient ammunition for critics who argue Ryan's rhetoric on jobs is little more than a smokescreen.
"Paul Ryan is not serious about tax reform. He's serious about tax giveaways—for millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations," said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness (AFT), in a statement.
He's going to pay for those deficit-exploding giveaways by cutting Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, public education, and a whole lot more. Middle-class Americans will see their basic standards of living reduced by Ryan's plans, just so that the rich and huge corporations can get a giant tax cut.
AFT also pointed to a memo, released on Monday, in which it urges congressional Republicans to learn from the "incontestable failures" of Kansas's tax cut experiment, which came to an end earlier this month after lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favor of hiking taxes.
That's why Paul Ryan calls it a "once in a generation" opportunity.
He means: "We can take money from Medicaid & give it to the wealthy."
— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) June 20, 2017
— Tax March (@taxmarch) June 20, 2017
Morris Pearl, the chair of Patriotic Millionaires, disputed the claim at the heart of Ryan's pitch.
"Let me make this clear: lowering tax rates does not create jobs. Period," he said. "Lowering tax rates just makes the one percent even richer."
According to recent polling data, most Americans want to do the opposite of what Ryan is proposing.
In a survey conducted by the University of Maryland's Program for Public Consultation in March, most participants expressed support for raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations and opposed eliminating the estate tax. A Gallup poll from last year suggested 61 percent of Americans believe the rich pay too little in taxes.
But popular sentiment, as Paul Waldman notes in a piece for the Washington Post, will not be enough to deter a political party that has for decades sought to overhaul the tax code to benefit big business and the donor class.
"If we can't cut taxes on the wealthy, [Republicans] ask each other, then why are we here?" Waldman writes. "What's the point of having power if you don't use it for this?"