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Rick Scott

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) speaks during a news conference after a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans on February 1, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Rick Scott Panned for New Plan Pushing Tax Hikes on the Poor

"Scott's agenda for the GOP is a predictable return to political distortions that blame the poor for being poor, and it fails to recognize the real challenges in our economy."

Jessica Corbett

GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida came under fire Tuesday in response to his new 11-point "Rescue America" plan for if Republicans reclaim a majority of Senate seats—particularly its call to raise taxes on low-income Americans.

"Scott… wants working families and seniors to pay more."

The proposal is in the "Economy/Growth" section of Scott's plan, which comes as Senate Republican leadership has declined to put out a formal platform. Scott's manifesto states that "all Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax."

HuffPost's Igor Bobic and Arthur Delaney noted that "everyone who works a payroll job pays federal taxes, but Scott is right that only higher earners pay income taxes."

"Demonizing lower earners for not paying taxes, however, did not help Mitt Romney become president in 2012," the reporters pointed out, referencing Scott's GOP colleague who represents Utah, "and most voters favor higher taxes only on higher earners."

The Washington Post's Aaron Blake called the tax proposal "one of the most striking and evocative parts" of the plan and also referenced the Utah Republican, writing that Scott is "rekindling the same issue that led Mitt Romney to stumble into his '47%' gaffe."

Blake continued:

While Romney overly simplistically referred to 47% of people who both paid no income tax and voted for Democrats because of it, the number who paid no income tax was indeed around half. In 2020, though, that number climbed as high as 61%, according to the Tax Foundation.

You begin to see the potential political problem here. Scott's document doesn't discuss the issue in as ham-handed a way as Romney did in that infamous video—though suggesting those who don't pay income taxes don't have "skin in the game" is certainly dicey. But it does advocate for raising taxes on, in the Tax Foundation's estimate, as many as 75 million people who paid no such taxes after deductions and credits in 2020. If you include the 32 million who didn't file returns, such as retirees, the number climbs well over 100 million Americans. (Scott's plan isn't explicit on whether his idea would include such people, but it does say "all Americans.")

As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) put it in a Tuesday tweet that linked to the Post's reporting: "Scott… wants working families and seniors to pay more."

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) declared that "Scott's agenda for the GOP is a predictable return to political distortions that blame the poor for being poor, and it fails to recognize the real challenges in our economy."

In an email to supporters Tuesday, the Patriotic Millionaires blasted various aspects of Scott's agenda, explaining that "it's a truly horrifying document, indicating Republicans would crush civil rights protections for groups like women and members of the LGBTQ community, punish single parents for living outside of the traditional 'nuclear family,' fire teachers who don't comply with conservative orthodoxy, question the legitimacy of any election they don't win, and treat their political opposition as enemies of the state."

"It also says that Republicans are going to raise taxes on middle and working-class families while slashing essential government services," the group highlighted, offering lengthy rebuttals to "some of Scott's most jarring statements in this regard."

In response to Scott's two-liner on tax hikes, the Patriotic Millionaires said:

There are a small number of uber-wealthy Americans who avoid federal income tax thanks to a series of loopholes that allow them to claim little to no income. If that was who Sen. Scott was talking about, we'd be cheering him on.

Unfortunately, Sen. Scott seems more focused on a different group. It's true that, in 2020, over half of households didn't pay federal income tax, a pretty significant spike from prior years thanks to massive job losses and federal aid due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Outside of those extraordinary circumstances, most people who don't pay any federal income taxes are exempt because they don't make enough money. These are people who are making just enough, or often not enough, to keep their families afloat. While in 2017 the GOP seemed happy to write a tax bill that gave 83% of the benefits to the top 1%, they now want to raise taxes on everyone else, even those who may live well below the poverty line.

"In the end, Sen. Scott's plan is a wink and a nod to his wealthy donors to keep stealing," the Patriotic Millionaires added, urging Democrats to urgently "deliver on the popular promises they ran on and give tens of millions of working Americans a financial boost" going into this year's elections.

"If Democrats control the House, Senate, and White House for two years with nothing to show for it, they're poised to pay the price in the 2022 midterms," the group warned. "And Sen. Scott has laid out exactly how horrible a future with total Republican control on Capitol Hill would be."

The Biden administration also swiftly slammed Scott's tax proposal, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki calling it out in a pair of tweets:

Scott's overall plan was regarded as a signal of his political goals, especially given that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), when asked last month what the GOP agenda would be if Republicans regained control of the chamber, said that "I'll let you know when we take it back."

Politico's Burgess Everett wrote that unveiling the agenda is "the type of move that ambitious politicians might make as they mull a presidential run," but Scott "was emphatic" that such a campaign was not his motivation.

"I'm not," said the former Florida governor, whose Senate term ends in 2024. "I'm doing it because I'm a business guy and I believe in plans."

This post has been updated to correct the surname of Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake.


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