There is a book that Donald Trump has not read. Yes, I know that could be literally any book, but the one I have in mind is called The Showdown at Gucci Gulch. It is the riveting story of how the last major tax reform was passed in 1986.
The 30 second summary is this: House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, Senators Bill Bradley and Bob Packwood, White House Chief of Staff / Treasury Secretary James Baker worked together for years hammering out every detail of every aspect of tax reform. They debated how and if to keep it revenue neutral, how to simplify it, and how to spread the benefits.
By contrast, the Trump Administration talks about overhauling major aspects of the American economy like they are launching a menu item at McDonalds. “Healthcare reform will happen his week.” “Tax reform will be released on Wednesday.”
That is not how this works. That is not how any of this works.
I almost forgive Trump for this naiveté. He is new to governing, has surrounded himself with no one of any expertise, and is generally not very bright. But Paul Ryan on the other hand – who used to hold the same title as Rep. Rostenkowski – should know better.
Well, he should know better, but as we saw with how he handled Health Care Crash and Burn Episode 1, he is a pretty shitty Speaker.
He not only crafted a bill that couldn’t crack 20% approval, but secured no outside support, made no efforts to secure votes, and gave the world’s worst PowerPoint infomercial on national television. He had 7 years (that is over 2500 days for those of you keeping track) to craft a replacement to that evil, sinister, job killing Obamacare and instead he basically put the letters “H.R.” in front of a turd and gave it to the House clerk.
Then as if he didn’t learn his lesson, he was back at it this week saying that the GOP has spent a whole four weeks writing an even worse version of their original dumpster fire. Once again, every major national health organization is opposed, no senators have been briefed, and the president is unable to articulate any provisions beyond “it’s very good and very well liked.”
While all of this is going on, Ryan somehow thought it was also a good idea to allow the White House to release an outline of a major tax reform proposal that differs in key ways from the plan Ryan has been salivating over for his entire life. Not to mention how it will make Republicans want to hide those debt clocks they were so fond of under Obama.
Despite being billed as the most powerful city on earth, Washington actually has very little bandwidth for more than one major undertaking at any given time. Major legislation takes up a ton of energy. The research, the hearings, the lobbying efforts, the scoring and analysis. It is a dance that has all the kinetic energy of an anthill and the organized chaos of a kayak race in a hurricane.
When the Republicans secured both houses of Congress and the White House, most Democrats began digging graves for all their priorities. The rich were about to get tax cuts, the ACA was on its way to the gallows, and social progress was shifting out of drive. Thankfully, Republicans have chose to govern like a puppy in a dog park that doesn’t know which tennis ball to chase. So for now, it looks like most liberal accomplishments are safer than we thought.
Back in 1986, Republicans were able to secure major victories like lower top rates in the final tax package despite Democratic control of the House. They did this through painstaking negotiating, intense cooperation between the Treasury and Congressional leaders, and careful consideration of major stakeholders concerns.
What they didn’t do was announce that it would happen “on Wednesday.”
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