Journalists Need to Push Back on the GOP’s Tax Bill Lies

Republicans shouldn’t be allowed to say without challenge that they’re cutting taxes for the middle class.

Nancy is usually persuasive, and she is once again in arguing the Republicans will not pay a price for passing this tax bill. I have argued the opposite and would like to expound a bit on my premise.

Bottom line: That premise presumed journalists do their jobs.

Nancy is right in saying that if citizens notice any change at all, they will notice changes to things they can no longer deduct from their gross income. If they did notice, they might raise hell before the midterms, but since they won’t notice in time, they probably won’t.

That’s why journalists are so vital.

They must inform citizens so they make good choices. In this case, so they do not reward the party raising their taxes. This is a tax increase on the middle class, and the Republicans will have enacted a law that stands in opposition to principles stated for more than four decades.

Journalists have all the context they need.

In addition to nonpartisan studies, they can turn to the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation. Each has analyzed the bill to conclude that it will raise taxes over a decade on anyone making under $75,000 a year, and it will add between 1 and 1.5 trillion dollars to a $20 trillion national debt.

The story should not be that the Republicans cut taxes. The Republicans, in other words, should not be allowed to say without challenge they cut taxes for the middle class and the economy will grow. This is not true, and it will remain untrue, whether voters notice or not.

Journalists, moreover, must stop pretending the GOP takes budgets seriously. They must demand they substantiate claims of being the party of fiscal responsibility. If they took budgets seriously, as George H.W. Bush did in the wake of Ronald Reagan’s huge deficits, they would be leading a debate on how to balance revenues and expenses in order to address the country’s growing debt. They are not leading that debate, because they are not the party of fiscal responsibility.

That they are about to pass a law with the hope that it will juice the economy is beyond irresponsible. It’s a picture of insanity—if we can define insanity as doing something most economists, policy makers and even other conservative Republicans say we shouldn’t do.

There are signs of hope.

The Washington Post and others appear to be rethinking the convention of “he said, she said,” and because they are, unsubstantiated GOP claims seem flimsy. Even NPR’s Robert Siegel made Chuck Grassley look grotesque by asking him to justify eliminating the tax on estates valued at more than $11 million.

So yes, most people are not going to notice changes to their income taxes—that is, unless journalists resist our post-truth era.

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John Stoehr

John Stoehr is a Washington Monthly contributing writer.