A Promise Of $1,200 Not Enough To Buy Wide Support For Republican Tax Plan

Nov 30, 2017
Originally published on December 1, 2017 12:05 pm

Republicans say their tax legislation will be great for the middle class. So why is it so unpopular?

Depending on the poll, only 25 percent to 33 percent of Americans approve of the tax plan. And that means even many people who would get a tax break aren't won over.

In pitching their tax plan to the country, Republicans say it would save the typical middle class American family between $1,200 and $1,400.

But that may not be enough to buy widespread support for this plan because not everybody gets that amount, and the House and Senate bills contain some unpopular provisions.

Dave Lewandowski, a resident of Grand Rapids, Mich., is married and has three children. He works for a company selling vitamins, water filters and other health-related products.

The family's household income is about $90,000 and he estimates he'll save $600 under the House plan and about $1,800 under the Senate version.

And he'd definitely be happy to get a tax cut.

"We're receiving a bit of a benefit at a time where it really helps," Lewandowski says. "We're trying to pay down some debt. We're looking forward to taking a vacation next year. This is a welcome benefit for me and my family."

Still, when it comes to the design of the overall tax plan itself, he's conflicted.

Lewandowski says he votes for Republicans more often than Democrats, so it's not politics. But he says he's not sure the balance is right with the GOP plan's huge tax cut for corporations.

"Many people in the middle class will receive a benefit, but that benefit is going to be muted or small," he says, "whereas the bulk of the benefit is going to be felt by corporations and the wealthy."

According to numbers from Congress' nonpartisan Joint Committee On Taxation, the wealthy and corporations do get a much bigger share of the benefits from the tax bills.

And Lewandowski doesn't like something else about the Republican plans.

"It's not equally applied across it," he says. "And when you look at the fact that this is a federal, national tax reform, some people are going to be impacted a lot more than others. So I would rather it be more that all people are impacted in the same way."

For example, the plans don't allow people to deduct state and local income taxes — and that can make a big difference for people in higher-tax states like California, New York and New Jersey.

Ani McHugh, a high school English teacher in Delran, N.J., says the plan "essentially punishes taxpayers who are already paying more in taxes. I don't see how that's a fair approach or a reasonable approach."

McHugh's husband is a police officer in the town where they live and they have two children. After checking with their tax adviser, she estimates the couple would end up paying between $3,000 and $5,000 more under the plan.

"I don't see how they can say this helps middle class people in New Jersey," she says.

Something else bothers her about the legislation. As a teacher, McHugh buys books for her students and other school supplies. And under at least the House tax plan, she would no longer be allowed to write those off her taxes.

"It's just hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that corporations are getting huge tax cuts and the wealthy tax breaks, and I'm a teacher and I'm spending my own money on things that will help me teach and things that will help my students learn and I can't write that off," she says.

McHugh says she's also worried that after they graduate, her students couldn't write off student loan interest — the House bill would repeal that deduction. That would make college more expensive. Many graduate students actually see a huge tax increase under the House version.

Meanwhile she says that among the middle class people she sees around New Jersey, "everybody seems to be struggling and working harder and a lot of people have second jobs. And so when corporations get a permanent tax break and the wealthy get tax breaks and we're paying more, yeah, that's frustrating. ... It's infuriating."

Multiple polls show that most Americans do not want a tax cut for the rich. That may be the biggest reason this tax overhaul is so unpopular.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Republicans say their tax legislation will be great for the middle class. A great big beautiful Christmas present for the American people - that's what President Trump is saying. So why, then, is it so unpopular? Polls are showing that between 25 and 33 percent of the country approves of the plan, meaning even some of those who would get a tax break are not even won over. Here's NPR's Chris Arnold.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: In pitching their tax plan to the country, Republicans say it would save the typical middle-class American family between $1,200 and $1,400 dollars. But it seems that that may not be enough to buy widespread support for this plan because, first, not everybody gets that and there's other unpopular stuff in these bills.

DAVE LEWANDOWSKI: My name is Dave Lewandowski. I live in Grand Rapids, Mich., so it's definitely the cold time of the year here, as it is in the East Coast.

ARNOLD: Lewandowski's married, three kids. He works for a company selling vitamins and water filters and other health products. The family's household income is about $90,000 dollars.

LEWANDOWSKI: So under the House plan, it looks like I'll save around $600 and under the Senate plan, closer to 1,800 when comparing the two.

ARNOLD: Lewandowski says he'd definitely be happy to get a tax cut.

LEWANDOWSKI: You know, we're receiving a bit of a benefit at a time where it really helps. Right? So we're trying to pay down some debt. We're looking forward to taking a vacation next year. This is a welcome benefit for me and my family.

ARNOLD: Still, when it comes to the design of the overall tax plan itself, he's...

LEWANDOWSKI: Conflicted.

ARNOLD: Lewandowski says he votes for Republicans more often than Democrats, so it's not politics. But he says, for one thing, he's not sure the balance is right with this huge tax cut for corporations.

LEWANDOWSKI: You know, it's the idea of something being spread a mile wide and an inch deep for the middle class. Right? So many people in the middle class will receive a benefit, but that benefit is going to be muted or small, whereas the bulk of the benefit is going to be felt by, you know, corporations and the wealthy.

ARNOLD: According to nonpartisan numbers from Congress's own Joint Committee on Taxation, the wealthy and corporations do get a much bigger share of the benefits from the tax bills. And Lewandowski also doesn't like that people in other states will pay more, people like Ani McHugh. She's a high school English teacher in Delran, N.J.

ANI MCHUGH: Well, New Jersey has always been, you know, a high-tax state.

ARNOLD: And the Republican tax plans don't allow people to deduct state and local income taxes, so that can make a big difference for people in states with higher taxes, like California and New York and New Jersey.

MCHUGH: This kind of tax plan that essentially punishes taxpayers who are already paying more in taxes - I don't see how that's a fair approach or a reasonable approach.

ARNOLD: McHugh's married. Her husband's a police officer in the same town where they live. They have two kids. And she's checked with her tax guy, and the best that she can figure, depending on the House or the Senate version...

MCHUGH: We're going to end up paying between $3,000 and $5,000 more.

ARNOLD: Which the couple, of course, is not happy about.

MCHUGH: My husband and I are both angry. It's - for, I'm assuming, lots of people like us, this is not going to be a tax cut by any means. It's not going to be a Christmas gift that President Trump said it was going to be.

ARNOLD: McHugh says, adding insult to injury - as a teacher, she buys books and school supplies for her students. And under at least the House tax plan, she would not be allowed to write those off her taxes anymore.

MCHUGH: It's just hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that corporations are getting huge tax cuts and the wealthy get tax breaks. And I'm a teacher, and I'm spending my own money on things that will help me teach and things that will help my students learn. And I can't write that off.

ARNOLD: Multiple polls show that most Americans do not want a tax cut for the rich. So that may be the biggest reason that these Republican tax bills are so unpopular.

Chris Arnold NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEAUTIFUL KILLING MACHINE'S "RIGHT IS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.