The 10% Middle-Class Tax Cut Five-Year Plan

[ Posted Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 – 16:22 UTC ]

Does anyone else remember the Soviet Union, and their grandiose "five-year plans"? They'd plan their country's economic future out using these plans, which were always constructed backwards: they would take the result they wanted to achieve, and then work the numbers back from that to show that it would happen (on paper). The thing about them was, though, they were wildly unrealistic and not connected to the reality on the ground at all. So the rest of the world just laughed at them, for the most part.

I've been reminded of all this while watching the amazing progression of President Trump's new promise to pass a ten-percent tax cut for the middle class. It all started with an ad-libbed moment during one of his rallies. Trump obviously went off script, and announced that Congress would pass a ten-percent middle class tax cut "before November!" Before we get to where the idea went after Trump blurted it out, though, it's fun to imagine how it popped into Trump's head in the first place. You can picture him speaking with his speechwriter, just before the rally, demanding: "Make the part of the speech about the economy better -- why are we not bragging more about the tax cut?"

"Um, well, Mr. President, the voters don't really like the tax cut. In fact, they seem to hate it."

"You're kidding! I mean, what's not to like? It's a tax cut."

"Well, they seem to have figured out that eighty percent of it goes to rich people and Wall Street, and they don't like that."

"Aren't all Republican voters rich?"

"Um, well... no. Mostly, they're middle class or lower."

"Well, why don't we talk about the stock market instead?"

"Most of them don't own stocks, and the market just tanked another 600 points today, totally wiping out all gains for the year."

"Damn! OK, let's talk about how we've gotten the deficit way down -- lower than it's ever been."

"Uh, well, those tax cuts actually added over $100 billion to this year's deficit, and next year it'll be even worse -- it'll probably hit the $1 trillion mark."

"Well, we gotta think of something to beef up the speech here."

Then, when later attempting to read the speech off of a TelePrompTer, Trump decides to just wing it. He makes an announcement -- completely out of the blue -- that Congress is not only diligently working on a new round of tax cuts targeted specifically towards the middle class, but that they're so close to finishing it that the bill will be passed and put on his desk "before November!" -- just in time to save the midterm elections, naturally.

Offstage, his aides' heads were exploding, of course. Nobody had ever heard anything about this tax cut before, and now they had the unenviable task of explaining to Trump why his timeline was not only too optimistic, but was indeed downright impossible.

"Mister President, there is no way Congress can pass another tax cut before November, or even before the midterms -- it just can't be done."

"Why not? I just promised everyone it would be finished by then!"

"Well, the House isn't even currently in session -- remember, you're out on the road doing all these rallies to help Republican House members. They're busy campaigning right now. If you called them back to Washington for a stunt, the Democrats would probably win big time on Election Day."

"Damn! Well, we've got to make something happen somehow -- get on it!"

Such is the life of a Trump aide, one assumes. What happened next was pretty predictable. The Republican leaders in both the House and Senate responded in incredulity: "What tax cut bill? Ten percent? For who? First I've heard of it!" Then they obviously got a call from the White House, and soon thereafter the five-year plan... oh, excuse me, the ten-percent tax cut bill... was diligently being worked upon, the committee chairs announced.

But even such a simple idea as "cut taxes 10 percent for all middle-class earners" isn't all that simple to put on paper, much less be voted upon. It'd be tough to write such a bill in so little time, no matter what -- these things usually take months to hammer out. Also, the House is still not in session and won't be until after the election, and the lame duck period was already going to be contentious since Trump has scheduled his next hissy fit on border wall funding for then. Plus, there's always the filibuster in the Senate, meaning that, as Senator Orrin Hatch admitted today, passing such a bill any time soon would be a "miracle."

Some bright spark either on Capitol Hill or in the White House then came up with a dodge -- just choreograph some political theater, and then worry about the reality later. After all, Trump just wants to use this as a political tool anyway, so who cares if it ever actually passes or not? The idea was to pass a nonbinding "resolution" through Congress so Republicans could go on the record as being in favor of the idea of cutting middle class taxes by ten percent, without actually cutting them. For such a political stunt to work, Paul Ryan would have to call the House back into session, but that could happen if the Republicans saw enough political benefit out of giving up a few days on the campaign trail. That's still a tall order, though -- there just aren't that many campaign days left, after all.

Still, that's the best the rest of the Republican Party could do, when attempting to make their Dear Leader's wildest urges into some sort of reality. That's got to be a tough job, you have to admit. Trump, without consulting anyone (much less his own leaders in Congress) announces that Congress will pass another tax cut before the election. Republican congressional leaders, once they pick themselves up from their stunned amazement, try to explain why that cannot happen. Trump continues to promise exactly the same thing on the campaign trail, which increases the pressure. Finally, someone Trump actually listens to explains to him that what he is promising is absolutely impossible, and he's got to change his language to allow an enormous amount of wiggle room. Trump then dutifully starts using the word "resolution" to cover his tracks.

It's doubtful Republicans will even be able to make this happen before the election, though. And even if they did, it would be completely meaningless: "We resolve that at some point in the future, we're going to pass another tax cut and this time we won't screw over the middle class! We promise!" After the election, this promise will either fizzle out or (more likely) just be completely (and conveniently) forgotten about altogether.

The whole thing was a fantasy from the get-go, in fact. Trump thought he had come up with a brilliant plan, and rather than run it by anyone in the White House, he decided he'd just make a grandiose promise to an adoring crowd. There was no reality to the promise at all, in fact Trump's timeline was downright laughable. His apparatchiks were then left to scramble around and try to create some sort of illusion of a tax cut so Trump wouldn't be proven to have blatantly lied to his followers.

Again, for anyone who lived through the Cold War, doesn't this sound at least somewhat familiar? All it would take, really, would be for Trump to announce that this tax cut will last for five years, and then start calling it his very own "five-year plan," for the irony to truly be complete.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


12 Comments on “The 10% Middle-Class Tax Cut Five-Year Plan”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    do you think maybe someone trump listens to could convince him to pass a targeted tax cut on pie? i mean yeah, it might technically qualify as a power reserved to the states, but come on, it's PIE!

  2. [2] 
    Paula wrote:

    Hey Gang: this clip is PRICELESS!

    Watch Mayor Andrew Gillum neatly disembowel DeSantis.

  3. [3] 
    Paula wrote:

    I'd buy a lot of pie from Mayor Gillum!

  4. [4] 
    Kick wrote:


    Hey Gang: this clip is PRICELESS!

    Watch Mayor Andrew Gillum neatly disembowel DeSantis.

    Ooooh… burn. He really did disembowel DeSantis. How will he eat pie now?

    I'd buy a lot of pie from Mayor Gillum!

    Not me, nope... *shakes head*… but I will buy a whole bakery of pies from Governor Gillum. DeSantis is so done. ;)

  5. [5] 
    Balthasar wrote:
  6. [6] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Interesting. I heard a guest on NPR's 'marketplace' discuss a plan that has been floating around conservative circles. It appears that some rich Republican doners don't actually care as much about income taxes as they do about Capital Gains taxes.

    The proposal was to cut the Capital Gains tax by 10%, and sell it as a middle-class tax cut, reasoning that millions of middle class Americans own some stocks at least, and they numerically outnumber rich investors, so it's a middle class tax cut, right?

    This is the sort of thing that would perk Trump's ears up, since it would benefit him directly. He's jumped the gun on policy proposals before, after all.

    Then again, he's also not above spewing pure bullshit in order to get votes, so there's that...

    In other words, don't assume that Trump's congressional allies will even consider an actual middle class tax cut anytime soon, no matter what shit Trump tells his faithful.

  7. [7] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    I wonder how the current administration and legislative flunkies define 'middle class' in the first place. It's a poorly defined concept anyhow: white collar workers? average income band? median income band? education level? home ownership?

    But I'll bet a whole pecan pie that their 'middle class' is richer than anyone else's middle class.

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    good point. "middle" class is kind-of like "small" business. once you get into the nitty gritty, there are a lot of people the legislators include that most of us would not.


  9. [9] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Mezzo, NYP

    The Small Business Admin. defintion includes businesses up to 1500 employees with up to $57M in revenue averaged over 3 years.

  10. [10] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Domestic pipe bomb terrorism fanned by Kaptain Khaos seems to stealing airtime and headlines from his back-of-the-Denny's-Menu Five Year Tax Plan. So it goes.

  11. [11] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    I've just finished reading the latest Shardlake book, Tombland, by C. J. Sansom. Like all her books, it was anything but a cozy look at Tudor England (Edward VI in this case). It is all too relevant to the present day, especially the pursuit of wealth, position and power at the expense of others.

  12. [12] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Balthazar [7] -

    Dang, that would make perfect sense, because it would -- yet again -- be a "middle class tax cut" that largely benefited the wealthiest. Par for the GOP course, in other words.

    I hadn't heard this yet, but again, it certainly wouldn't surprise me. Thanks for pointing it out.

    Mezzomamma [8] -

    I've written about this before, can dig the link out if necessary. Interesting tidbit: when polled, something like 95% of Americans say they are middle class. The upper-mc and above don't like to think of themselves as "rich." The lower middle class and below don't like to think of themselves as "poor." So just about everybody thinks they're in the middle class.

    What set me off were Democrats who were proposing adjusting the cap on Social Security so that those making below roughly $120K/yr would pay full price, those making above $250K/yr would pay almost the full price, but those in the $120-250K donut hole would still get a big tax break and pay a far lower percentage than everyone else. Funnily enough, these are the people who regularly make political donations to the parties. Maybe it's just me, but making a quarter-million a year is above where I'd define "middle-class" personally.

    Like I said if you're interested, I can dig out the link.

    And as for [12] -

    Didn't I hear that "Game of Thrones" was based loosely on the War Of The Roses? There is indeed nothing new under the sun. Heh.


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