WASHINGTON – To paraphrase a line from an old debate, “I knew Jack Kemp. Jack was a friend of mine. And Donald Trump, you’re no Jack Kemp.”
Partisans of President Trump’s tax cut plan – they call it the biggest tax cut plan in the history of the whole world – are comparing it with the 1981 tax bill co-sponsored by the late, revered Rep. Jack Kemp, a Republican from Hamburg.
The two plans have many differences. One is that Kemp’s revolutionary tax plan became law. Trump’s isn’t going anywhere.
Secondly, middle-income earners were really helped by the 1981 law, co-sponsored by Sen. Bill Roth, R-Del. Kemp-Roth cut federal income taxes at least one-third across the board.
Trump’s proposal, as noted by News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski, would dig a huge hole for middle-income homeowners by denying them the right to deduct state and local taxes from their federal income tax liability.
Trump’s idea, exhumed from a place where the sun never shines, is not only a poison pill in Amherst and Clarence, N.Y., but in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and Beverly Hills, Calif.
It is, in fact, a poison pill in every American town whose residents pay their grocery bills with their own money: A description of where some Republican voters might live.
The fact that the president endorsed this mildewed plan, hailed by this town’s most extreme right-wing think tanks, proves that he does not really read what is put in front of him. Will Trump sign anything cleared by his Wall Street triumvirate of advisers, son-in-law Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Chief Economic Adviser Gary Cohn?
Another difference from Kemp-Roth was that then President Ronald Reagan had to work with Democrats from the beginning. It’s true that Republicans in 1981 took control of the Senate for the first time in decades, but the House was under absolute control of Democrats. It was Kemp who had a 10-year history of working with Democrats, on inner-city projects, for example.
Somehow Trump was convinced that he could do all he wished through nominal Republicans. And it’s Trump’s own Republican Party that has blocked needed reforms to Obamacare and tax reform.
Large slices of his party despise him. The globalist Club for Growth, which fought Trump’s nomination, owns some House members. Another is the Freedom Caucus, a fundamentalist group, which resembles the 19th century Know-Nothing Party. One of its planks was a tale that agents of the pope stole a building stone from the Washington Monument.
One last historical note: Conservatives claim to this hour that Kemp-Roth spurred the nation’s economic growth of the 1980s. This is their beloved “trickle-down” theory that making the rich richer will help everybody. Kemp-Roth was followed by a deepening recession and higher interest rates. So this is not necessarily true.
The next year, then Senate Finance Chairman Bob Dole, R-Kansas, and Reagan pushed through a sweeping tax “corrections” bill, wiping out much of what taxpayers gained through Kemp-Roth.
Kemp reportedly went ballistic, raging at Reagan and Dole; forcing Reagan to go head-to-head with the congressman, taking Kemp “to the woodshed.” Kemp had been a favorite of Reagan’s until then. Their friendship cooled. That confrontation may have contributed to Kemp’s being denied a place on the national ticket until 1996, when he was nominated for vice president.
In any case, there were other big tax revisions in 1986 and 1989. The maxim is that whatever Congress does to the tax code in 2017, will be undone afterward by “the tax practice” – the battalions of tax lawyers working as lawyers and lobbyists.