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Republicans have their own Obamacare now

Dana Milbank on

Obamacare did much of what was advertised, and its popularity grew. But it didn't do everything that was promised, and anything Americans didn't like about the health-care system became the fault of Obamacare, even if unrelated to the law. Now, Republicans are making impossibly high promises, and if anything goes wrong -- if the economy doesn't boom, wages don't soar and the middle class doesn't rebound -- it will be the fault of this legislation, soon to be labeled "the Trump Tax" by Democrats.

The parallels are eerie. In 2010, as now, lawmakers who drafted the legislation were confident it would be transformational. Then, as now, the legislation passed on an entirely partisan basis, with the opposition complaining about a hurried process and side deals.

Actually, the Trump Tax is in worse shape than Obamacare was. USA Today reported last week that the bill had "the lowest level of public support for any major piece of legislation enacted in the past three decades, including the Affordable Care Act in 2009." In March 2009, the Quinnipiac poll found opposition to Obamacare exceeded support by nine points; the latest Quinnipiac poll finds opposition to the tax bill exceeding support by 29 points.

Republicans worked hard to convince Americans that Obamacare was a transfer of wealth from the middle class to the poor. Democrats can now argue, truthfully, that the Trump Tax is a transfer of income from the middle class to the wealthy and big business. Under the law, the middle fifth of American households will see an average increase in after-tax income next year of $930, while the top 1 percent get an average increase of $51,140, according to the Tax Policy Center. The rich even get a greater proportional increase in after-tax income: 2.3 percent, compared with 1.4 percent for the middle class.

While the "forgotten man" Trump lured with phony populism gets little benefit, the things that bothered the forgotten man about the tax code -- a tangled mess of loopholes for businesses, the rich and Wall Street -- remain intact. This will be a "bigger albatross" for Republicans than Obamacare was for Democrats, argues Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson. "They own the tax code. When you are upset about taxes, you're going to be upset about the Trump Tax."

On top of that, Republicans now have claimed ownership of health care. The tax bill kills the individual mandate that underpinned Obamacare, which will leave 13 million additional people without coverage.

 

Tuesday morning, Ryan declared (falsely) that the bill would "especially" benefit middle-income families. He said it would "bid up" wages, repatriate jobs, provide economic growth of 3 percent a year and create upward mobility.

Maybe he's right and all those blue-chip economists and the nonpartisan analyses by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Congressional Budget Office and others are wrong. Maybe growth will dramatically exceed forecasts, millions will enter the labor force and find work, wages will soar and the $1.5 trillion tax bill will pay for itself. But if all that doesn't happen, the Trump Tax will be blamed.

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Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group


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