Earlier this month, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) took some heat for highlighting on his social media a passage from an Associated Press story about some people beginning to see an increase in their paychecks from the tax bill recently signed into law by President Donald Trump.
Ryan wrote, “A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week … she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year.”
You might have thought Ryan showed up at a grocery store and was amazed at the modern technology of a cash-register scanner, made some grand proclamation about binders full of women or any other classic Republican act contextualized in a way to make the GOP seem out of touch with Americans.
Ryan’s Democratic counterpart in the House of Representatives, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California), disparaged the impact the legislation will have. She referred to resulting bonuses handed out by some companies as “crumbs.”
“In terms of the bonus that corporate America received versus the crumbs that they are giving workers to kind of put the schmooze on is so pathetic,” Pelosi said at a press briefing on Capitol Hill. “It’s so pathetic.”
Pelosi’s disdain for tax cuts isn’t surprising. Her views, or at least those she espouses to get elected in San Francisco, come from a political philosophy favoring the idea of strength in numbers over the power of the individual.
Therefore, if we’re all going to do our part to make the world a better place, the “haves” need to pay their fair share to society, which apparently comes in the form of paying taxes to the various levels of government in America.
In this setting, the “haves” are corporations and high-income earners, and the “have-nots” are portrayed as everyone else. The government is a modern-day Robin Hood that takes from the rich and gives to the poor to level society’s playing field because it is the right thing to do. And in some places, advocating this is a very convenient way to win over voters.
Here’s the problem: The country did it their way. We did it for eight years under President Barack Obama.
What was the most consequential thing Obama did as president? He passed the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare,” and a “BFD” according to Vice President Joe Biden.
For a lot of people, it was a hit to their wallets. Sure, now they had “access” to affordable health care. But it was compulsory access. You either had it, or you paid a fine.
Even if you didn’t know what was good for you and didn’t want this health insurance, you still had to pay for it. It was the only way this system could work — everyone had to pay a fair share in this hybrid socialist-cronyistic version of health care policy. Otherwise, the health insurance industry wouldn’t have gone along with it.
The result of this had an impact on the marketplace. Given that everyone had to have coverage and were subsidies were given to those that couldn’t afford a monthly premium in the hundreds of dollars, the health insurance providers got to charge whatever they wanted.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the average annual health insurance premium increased nationally by $2,928, a rate of 105 percent since “Obamacare” was signed into law. In Alabama, it was much worse, with an annual increase of $6,219, a rate of 223 percent for the same period.
That was their way, and you can make a valid argument for the merits of “affordable health care for all.” Certainly, some people benefited.
That’s all well and good, but as they say, politics is a game of addition and not subtraction. In this case, you’re taking away from many to help a few.
Back to that $1.50 everyone was mocking. If you asked the average American if they would rather have an extra $1.50 a week or owe an additional $56 a week ($119 a week in Alabama) in health insurance premiums because it’s for the “greater good,” how do you suppose they’ll respond?
Yeah, you’re not going to get rich off the extra buck-fifty, but at least that is something extra in your pocket.
This year’s midterm elections are still not expected to go well for the GOP. Unquestionably, President Trump is unpopular, and 535 members of Congress will have to run with or against Trump. As post-presidential midterm elections go, the party in power traditionally suffers.
For economic reasons, it might not be as bad for Republicans. Other than the equity markets’ weird gyrations, all the metrics show an improving economy. Consumer confidence is on the upswing.
People may look at their paychecks and be less concerned about how the money got there. That could be what makes the difference in the Democrats barely taking control of Congress and a Democratic Party wave election similar to what the Republicans had in 2010.
It may not be much, but those “crumbs” are at least on the positive side of the ledger. And if an incumbent Republican makes his case by asking, “Are you better off now than you were two years ago?” — what would be the response?