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12/24/2017 12:24:00 PM
COMMENTARY: Will federal tax bill turn out to be a gift for Republicans?

Kelly Hawes, Kokomo Tribune CNHI News Indiana Columnist

So will the new tax bill turn out to be your favorite present under the Christmas tree?

Or is it more like that ugly sweater your aunt gave you last year?

Indiana’s Democratic senator, Joe Donnelly, is hoping it’s the latter, while his Republican colleague, Todd Young, is betting it’s the former. Young voted for the measure, while Donnelly, like the rest of his party, voted against it.

Donnelly said the measure would result in a huge tax cut for the wealthiest Americans while eventually raising taxes within a few years for middle-class families.

Two of the men seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Donnelly in next year’s election were among those voting for the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rep. Luke Messer issued a statement accusing Donnelly of voting against the pay raise Hoosiers deserve.

“Sen. Donnelly says he works for Indiana, but time and again, he votes with Washington liberals to block the president’s agenda,” Messer said.

Rep. Todd Rokita called the measure pro-growth.

“This historic tax reform is going to help the American people keep more of their hard-earned money, create more opportunity and make American businesses more competitive at home and abroad,” he said.

At least for the moment, most voters seem to be siding with Donnelly.

A poll carried out just ahead of the bill’s passage found 41 percent of Americans believed the tax bill was a bad idea. Less than 25 percent thought it was a good idea.

The poll conducted Dec. 13-15 by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News found few people were buying the Republican assertion that middle-class taxpayers would save money under the new plan. Just 17 percent said their family would pay less in taxes.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is confident that will change.

“When people see their withholding improving, when they see the jobs occurring, when they see bigger paychecks, a fairer tax system, a simpler tax code, that’s what’s going to produce the results,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

One problem for the bill’s supporters is that many folks soured on the bill weeks ago. Some of the less popular provisions have been eliminated.

Others perhaps have gotten worse.

Progressives are upset the bill eliminates the individual mandate, possibly ensuring the doom of the Affordable Care Act. They’re also unhappy with a provision to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The criticism, though, is not just coming from Democrats. Conservative columnist George Will said the White House claim that the measure represented “the most significant tax reform we’ve had since 1986” was “like bragging about the tallest building in Boise.”

“The 1986 tax reform radically simplified the tax code,” Will wrote. “Since then, the code has acquired more than 15,000 new wrinkles. The 2017 tax legislation might — this is difficult to measure — have managed the minor miracle of making the 70,000-page code more complicated.”

Fellow conservative Rich Lowry had a different take.

“As the year ends, President Trump is compiling a solid record of accomplishment, …” he wrote. “The tax bill is the significant legislative achievement that heretofore has been missing.”

Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg offered this observation on Twitter: “My hunch: The tax bill will help the economy, but not enough of the voters the GOP needs to hold House (and maybe Senate) will change their minds on Trump or the GOP as a result. May prevent a wave from being tsunami, but the wave is almost surely coming.”

Before long, I guess, we’ll find out who’s right.

Related Stories:
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• GOP tax bill could vex commuters, local governments, Northwest Indiana officials say
• Notre Dame to pay millions in taxes on investment earnings under tax bill
• Federal tax changes raise big issues for higher education

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