Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hillary Clinton's Phantom Tax Relief Plan

Jeremy Scott, Contributor

Jeremy Scott, Contributor

Hillary Clinton would like voters to believe she’s the candidate most likely to help  working Americans.  After a surprisingly difficult primary fight with a socialist senator  from Vermont, Clinton has adopted a lot of populist economic rhetoric.  On her campaign  website, she says she has an eight-point plan to help the middle class, with the first  point saying, “Hillary is proposing middle-class tax breaks to help families cope with  the rising cost of everyday expenses.”  However, Clinton actually hasn’t ever released  her plan to cut middle-income taxes (or really any taxes), instead relying on evasive  answers and proposals for small-change tax expenditures.

In this photo taken Sept. 21, 2016, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton  speaks during a campaign stop in Orlando, Fla. The most telling moments in presidential  debates often come out of the blue, an offhand remark or unrehearsed gesture that helps  to reveal the essence of a candidate who’s already been poked, prodded and inspected for  years. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Nowhere in Hillary’s plan for a raise for the middle class does her campaign discuss  lowering any income tax rates.  In fact, she most often talks about raising taxes on the  wealthy.  She talks about expanding child care credits and making college affordable.   She touts her support for unions, clean energy, and infrastructure, but doesn’t really  make it clear how those would increase voters’ take-home pay.

In March the Clinton campaign released a tax plan that would raise $1.1 trillion in new  taxes.  She told the Tax Policy Center that an income tax cut for low- and middle-income  families was forthcoming.  We’re still waiting.

On September 22 Clinton updated her tax plan again, this time spelling out major changes  to the estate tax (mirroring a plan put forward by Bernie Sanders).  But she still didn’t  talk about her promised middle-income tax cut.  And her campaign has hinted in some  places that what you see is what you get.  The tax credits for “everyday expenses” that  she has outlined in disjointed fashion throughout the Democratic campaign and general  election might be her only version of a tax cut for the middle class.

Hillary’s reluctance to commit to a specific tax cut for the middle class could be  related to her husband’s 1992 campaign.  During the battle with President George H. W.  Bush and Ross Perot, Bill Clinton pledged to cut taxes for most Americans, while fighting  the deficit.  Once he was in office, however, his plan changed almost entirely to deficit  reduction.  In fact, President Clinton’s 1993 budget was a massive tax increase (albeit  one that contributed to the first surpluses in decades by the time he left office).  The  backlash to that budget, along with a failed carbon tax and healthcare reform plan,  propelled Republicans to seizing both chambers of Congress for the first time in 40  years.  Maybe Hillary Clinton would like to avoid repeating that mistake.  Perhaps she,  probably accurately, sees that deficit reduction and new spending needs will trump any  desire for broad tax relief and doesn’t want to get caught up defending a flip-flop in  2018 and 2020.
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Another possibility, which isn’t mutually exclusive from learning from her husband’s  experiences, is that Hillary Clinton simply isn’t all that committed to tax relief.   Rifle-shot tax expenditures that sound good, but don’t cost the government that much  revenue, have always been among the Clintons’ favorite political gambits.  Perhaps that’s  all Hillary thinks she needs to talk about to win over populists who were backing Sanders  or who might be thinking of supporting Donald Trump.

If that’s the case, then Clinton owes it to voters to make it clear that no new plan is  coming.  And voters who believe that actual tax relief is a key part of fighting  inequality or increasing take-home income need to look elsewhere.

Read more at: phantom-tax-relief-plan/#193623344a63

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