As the Senate was about to pass the tax reform bill earlier this week, protesters interrupted the proceedings with chants like “Kill the bill, don’t kill us.” The protests were so loud that Vice President Pence had to stop the process a few times.
Protesters singled out Sen. Jeff Flake, whom they hoped would vote “no.” A protester yelled: “Have you no decency, have you no shame?”
This was probably a reference to Flake’s widely publicized criticism of President Trump in a Senate speech and an op-ed in which Flake invoked the question Joseph Welch famously hurled at Joe McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings. But Flake was referring to overheated rhetoric and incivility — e.g., tweets by Trump that childishly insult the president’s adversaries and, at times, even his friends. Flake was not referring to tax rates.
Flake now has lashed out against the hyperbole employed by opponents of the tax bill. Don’t expect the mainstream media to cover this particular lecture on the importance of civility.
Flake cited several instances of the left’s over-the-top rhetoric on the tax bill. He pointed to claims that thousands, if not millions, of Americans are going to die as a direct result of the passage of a tax reform bill. He reminded us that Nancy Pelosi (whom he did not identify by name) had proclaimed the tax bill “the worst bill in the history of Congress.” And he cited a pundit (Kurt Eichenwald) who encouraged young Americans to flee their country and declared, “America died tonight.”
It’s been a long time since this kind of hysterical rhetoric shocked me. My question is, what do the Democrats say if Americans end up liking this tax bill.
James Pethokoukis poses the same question in an article called: “Americans might really like the Trump tax cuts. What will Democrats do then?” Americans might really like the tax cuts for two reasons. First, most of them almost certainly will end up paying less money in taxes. Second, the economic mini-boom we’re experiencing may accelerate, in which case many Americans will believe, reasonably, that the tax cut spurred economic growth.
Economic growth has shifted into a higher gear. In 2016, the economy grew by just 1.5 percent, adjusted for inflation. But the past two quarters of this year have seen growth twice as fast. What’s more, the New York Fed’s real-time “Nowcast” model is currently forecasting 4 percent growth for the final three months of 2017 and over 3 percent growth for the first three months of 2018. Americans haven’t seen such strong and sustained GDP growth since 2004.
If the economy keeps growing at even a modest pace, the already tight labor market will get even tighter. The unemployment rate, down 0.7 percentage points since the start of the year to 4.1 percent, may be well under that level by Election Day 2018. And don’t be surprised if wage growth accelerates, too, as companies scramble to hire workers. And even if wage growth stays steady, that’s not so bad given low inflation.
What will the Democrats say in this scenario? They will try to give President Obama the credit. However, as Pethokoukis says, politicians are typically given credit for what happens on their watch, especially if they can point to a major piece of legislation that can plausibly be viewed as responsible. And when the opposing party — here the Democrats — claimed that the sky would fall as a result of that legislation, the sponsoring party — here the Republicans — stand to gain all the more.
I should add a note of caution, however. A growing economy is almost always enough to re-elect a president, but it is often not enough to avoid sizable midterm losses for his party. Even so, if 2018 is a boom year, Democrats may have to temper their expectations, especially with Republicans in a position to throw the Dems overheated rhetoric back at them.