Sunday Politcal Brunch: A Taxing Problem on Capitol Hill - December 3, 2017

Sunday, December 03, 2017
Mark Curtis, GoLocalProv Contributor

There’s a lot going on in the nation’s capital these days not the least of which is the issue of tax reform. It’s not as clear as some would like to make it, in terms of who it helps and hurts the most. But, there could be tremendous political fallout. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“A Taxing Issue” – The first thing to underscore is that the House and Senate are working on two very different tax reform bills. As always, they must pass the same bill before it can go to the President’s desk, so we’ll see. The goal of passing tax reform before Christmas seems like a “pie in the sky” wish, but there’s an outside chance.

“The Big Differences” – As mentioned, as with any bill in Congress the House and Senate must eventually agree on the exact same language. The Senate bill would completely eliminate deductions for state and local property taxes, while the House phases them out over time. The Senate bill would allow people to deduct all of their medical expenses each year, while the House would eliminate all of that. The Senate would keep seven income tax brackets; the House voted to have just four. There are more differences; these are just some highlights.

“Ask an Expert!” – There is a lot of hyperbole on both sides. Democrats call all these tax cuts that only benefit the rich and corporations (simply not true); and Republicans claim the “trickle-down theory” that a rising economic tide “will lift all boats” (also simply not true). Why do I say both sides are wrong? Well a lot of this depends on the final bill and individual circumstances. First, doubling the standard deduction and child tax credit will help a lot of families keep more of their own money. However, losing property tax and student loan interest deductions and medical deductions may hurt some of the very same families who choose to itemize deductions with a Schedule A. The best advice: consult a tax adviser, since generalized reports from the press are often an inaccurate “cookie cutter” approach that can be misleading. There’s no “one size fits all” analysis here.

“Market Reaction” – Since it has been 31 years since Congress passed major tax reform, the anticipation is palpable. On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed over 24,000 for the first time in history. The market surged by 351 points in anticipation of the Senate vote. Wall Street likes this issue, in terms of what it might mean for national economic growth. But as the ads always say, “past performance is not an indication of future returns.” Clearly, though, the investment markets are optimistic.

“Who Pays Taxes?” – Some of the rhetoric over tax reform is inaccurate and disingenuous. I don’t say this as any kind of endorsement of the current tax bills in the House and Senate. Instead it’s important to assess who is currently paying the U.S. tax bill. According to Pew Research, people who make over $200,000 per year, paid 59 percent of all income taxes collected by the Internal Revenue Service. Families making less than $30,000 per year paid only 1.4 percent of federal tax revenue. And according to the Tax Policy Center, 45 percent of U.S. families paid no income taxes at all in 2015. The notion that the “rich” don’t pay their fair share is simply blown away by these statistics.

“Why All of This Matters?” – We are now less than one year away from the 2018 midterm elections. Unlike other single district races in the past year, 2018 will, in fact, be a national referendum on the Trump administration and the Republican Congressional leadership. The Trump White House has had zero major policy initiatives get through Congress. It needs a win, and tax reform could be the ticket. Let’s face it, politics is a “what have you done for me lately” business. Even though they’ve neither passed (nor repealed) anything else of significance, if they can go home and tell voters they cut their taxes, it could have a big impact on the Republican’s chances in 2018. If they fail, it could be midterm bloodbath.

What are your thoughts on Tax reform? Just click the comment button at

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political reporter, author and analyst, now based in West Virginia. He is the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving the Mountain State, with additional viewership in Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

  • Sponsor: GoLocalProv

    Sample: N=403

    Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

    Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

    Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

    Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

  • Are you registered to vote at this address?

    Yes: 100%

  • When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

    Unaffiliated: 49%

    Democrat: 32%

    Republican: 15%

    Moderate: .4%

  • Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

    Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

    Definitely be voting: 78%

    Probably be voting: 13%

    50-50: 9%

  • In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

    Right track: 39%

    Wrong track: 45%

    Mixed: 10%

    Don't know/Refused: .6%

  • What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

    Jobs and economy:  21%

    Education: 12%

    Taxes: 12%

    Roads: 12%

    State budget: 9%

    Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

    Healthcare: 3%

    Governor: 3%

    Homelessness: 2%

    Immigration: 2%

    Other: 7%

    Don’t know: .9%

  • Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

    Changed for the better: 35%

    Changed for the worse: 16%

    Not changed at all: 43%

    Don't know/Refused: 5%

  • Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

    Changed for the better: 26%

    Changed for the worse: 19%

    Not changed at all: 54%

    Don't know/Refused: 1%

  • Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

    Net: Approve: 28%

    Definitely approve: 15%

    Probably approve: 14%

    Net: Reject: 67%

    Probably reject: 19%

    Definitely reject: 48%

    Don't know: 4%

  • Could you please tell me your age?

    18-24: 7%

    25-34: 15%

    35-44: 15%

    45-54: 20%

    55-64: 17%

    65+: 25%

    Don't know/refused: 1%

  • What was the last grade you completed in school?

    0-11: 2%

    High school grad: 16%

    Technical/Vocational school: 1%

    Some college: 23%

    College grad: 34%

    Graduate degree: 24%

    Don't know/refused: 1%

  • The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

    $50,000 or less: 27%

    More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

    More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

    More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

    $150,000 or more: 13%

    Don't know/refused: 17%

  • What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

    American/None: 21%

    English: 13%

    Italian: 13%

    Irish: 12%

    Black or African American: 6%

    Latino/Hispanic: 6%

    French: 6%

    Portuguese: 3%

    Jewish: 3%

    German: 1%

  • Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?

    Excellent: 13%
    Good: 12%
    Fair: 14%
    Poor: 57%
    Never heard of:  0%
    Cannot rate: 3%

  • Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

    Excellent: 22%
    Good: 29%
    Fair: 23%
    Poor: 15%
    Never heard of: 6%
    Cannot rate: 6%

  • Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

    Excellent: 17%
    Good: 22%
    Fair: 21%
    Poor: 28%
    Never heard of: 6%
    Cannot rate: 7%

  • Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

    Excellent: 9%
    Good: 29%
    Fair: 21%
    Poor: 27%
    Never heard of: 6%
    Cannot rate:  8%

  • Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

    Excellent: 7%
    Good: 30%
    Fair: 20%
    Poor: 18%
    Never heard of: 13%
    Cannot rate: 11%

  • Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

    Excellent: 6%
    Good: 28%
    Fair: 30%
    Poor: 31%
    Never heard of: 1%
    Cannot rate: 3%

  • Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?

    Excellent: 3%
    Good: 16%
    Fair: 21%
    Poor: 8%
    Never heard of: 26%
    Cannot rate: 25%

  • Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?

    Excellent: 3%
    Good: 20%
    Fair: 28%
    Poor: 17%
    Never heard of: 13%
    Cannot rate: 19%

  • Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

    Excellent: 4%
    Good: 18%
    Fair: 24%
    Poor: 13%
    Never heard of: 21%
    Cannot rate: 21%

  • Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

    Excellent: 5%
    Good: 21%
    Fair: 21%
    Poor: 10%
    Never heard of: 20%
    Cannot rate: 23%

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