The second any Republican proposes a tax cut, Democrats are there, waiting in the wings to decry the proposal as a “tax cut for the rich.” It’s a recycled slogan that just never goes away because Democrats want people to think Republicans are for the rich while they’re for the middle class. When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez donned her infamous “Tax the Rich” dress as she hobnobbed with the rich and famous at the 2021 Met Gala, she wasn’t being ironic.
For as long as I’ve been following politics, that’s been the line. In 2000, Al Gore said George W. Bush’s tax cut was for the rich. Four years later, after Bush cut taxes for the middle class, John Kerry nevertheless accused him of cutting taxes for the rich. Like a broken record, we heard it again four years later when Barack Obama accused John McCain of wanting to cut taxes for the rich, and again in 2012 when Obama accused Mitt Romney of wanting to cut taxes for the rich. True to form, in 2016, Hillary Clinton also accused Donald Trump of wanting to cut taxes for the rich. In fact, Hillary claimed—and Politifact fact-checked as true—that Trump’s tax plan was even more of a tax cut for the rich than Bush’s. Scary stuff!
Hillary was not alone in describing Trump’s plan this way. “Despite Republicans’ empty promises to cut taxes for middle-class working families, it’s clear that the GOP tax plan for the wealthiest is rich indeed.”
It’s safe to say that Democrats will continue to make this accusation forever. They simply have no other way to debate policy than to use tired old slogans that once performed well in a focus group. This is all they have because debating policy on the facts isn’t their forté. Instead, they breed resentment with slogans that bear no resemblance to the truth. Because guess what? IRS data prove that Trump’s tax cuts went to the middle class, not to the rich.
“According to data from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service comparing outcomes from 2017 to 2018—the first year the tax reform law went into effect—the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced average effective income tax rates for filers in every one of the IRS’s income brackets, with the largest benefits going to lower- and middle-income households,” explained Justin Haskins of the Heartland Institute.
But… but… Democrats said it was a tax cut for the rich!
Haskins explains that once all tax deductions and credits were accounted for, tax filers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) between $30-40,000 saw their taxes cut by 18.41%, tax filers with an AGI of $40-50,000 saw their taxes cut 18.2%, and tax filers with an AGI of $50-75,000 saw their taxes cut 17%. The group that saw the most significant tax cut were filers with an AGI of $5-10,000, who saw an 87.65% tax cut. What about the rich? Well, filers with an AGI between $5-10 million only got a cut of 3.5%.
In short, it wasn’t a tax cut for the rich; it was a tax cut for the working and middle class. Will the Democrats realize they were wrong and retire the painfully inaccurate slogan? Don’t bet on it. Why not? Because, as the saying goes, Democrats are always guilty of what they accuse other of. Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which passed the House last month, includes a tax cut for the rich. Democrats need to accuse Republicans of cutting tax cuts for the rich because they’re trying to distract from the fact that cutting taxes for the rich is actually the Democrats’ modus operandi.