Tax Propaganda

TaxPropagandaRepublican tax reform advocates and the Trump White House have taken note of the mistakes made during the hapless Obamacare repeal effort that culminated in failure in the Senate. One of the biggest mistakes Republicans made was an inability to make the case to the broader population that their replacement was going to be in any way better.

Tax reform advocates friendly to the Republican agenda have already begun a campaign to help the Republican leadership deliver talking points about the need for tax reform. The American Action Network recently launched a 15 second video across national cable platforms featuring Albert Jones, a laid off metal worker from Ohio, who claims that he lost his job because of the U.S. tax code.

The problem with the video is not Albert Jones’ story – the problem is that the conclusions the ad draws (or implies) are disingenuous:

  1. The voice-over narrative suggests that Jones’ job was lost because of the complexity of the U.S. tax code. While no one will disagree that the tax code is complex, there are dozens of reasons that jobs are lost in the U.S. including automation, mergers, demand, and competition. To imply that the tax code itself is destroying middle class manufacturing jobs by itself ignores larger economic trends and forces at work over the past 50 years.
  2. Unemployment in Ohio, where Albert Jones lives, is a little higher (5%) than the national rate (4.3%). However, many manufacturing-based cities in Ohio are doing incredibly well with Columbus (3.5%) and Cincinnati (4%) leading the way. Unemployment is not the problem it was in Ohio when President Obama took office – it was 11% in January of 2010.
  3. The ad encourages Congress to “pass tax reform that brings back the middle class.” TaxPropaganda2While there may be some measures that help middle class families, there is little evidence that tax codes supported by Republicans and President Trump will help bring back the middle class. In fact popular Republican measures such as repealing the estate tax entirely, a corporate tax cut, and tax cuts for wealthy Americans will not bring “the middle class back.”

The ad artfully creates a sympathetic character (Jones), establishes a problem (taxes are complex), and even hints at an easy villain (China). The notion, however, that Republicans in Congress and Donald Trump are going to enact tax reform that helps middle class Americans simply does not line up with their policy positions or their failed attempt to take health care away from millions of Americans in order to give the wealthiest a tax break.