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Rick Scott’s tax gift to Democrats

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) addresses reporters after the weekly policy luncheon on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.
Greg Nash

Newt Gingrich created the “Contract with America” in 1994.

Rick Scott, the Republican senator from Florida, proposed a manifesto for the 2022 election.

In 1994, the Contract with America focused voters on 10 already written and debated pieces of legislation that had near-unanimous support among Republican congressmen and were widely supported by the general public. In the November 1994 election, Republicans gained 54 seats in the House and eight seats in the Senate to win Republican control of Congress for the first time since 1954.

Rick Scott’s “Plan to Rescue America” is a list of 128 planks with only ONE that deals with taxation. If this plank remains in the plan it could cost Republicans the House and Senate in 2022.

That is rather harsh. How? Why?

The tax plank is an open-ended call for tax increases on half the American electorate. That one tax-hiking proposal has received more public attention than all the other 127 proposals combined. For 2022 campaign purposes, Scott’s manifesto is the threat of tax increases. 

The plan does not call for reducing any tax. He does not call for making the Trump/Republican tax cuts of 2017 permanent. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act tax cuts for families expire in 2025. Scott’s manifesto is silent on this massive pending tax hike.

In 2025, the TCJA lower tax rate for small businesses will end. Scott’s proposal is silent on this tax hike. The expensing of new investment that has driven so much positive job-creating investment since 2017 will phase down starting Jan. 1, 2023 and fully expire in 2026. The manifesto is silent on this. 

Did Scott suggest a two-thirds supermajority requirement for a tax increase, such as the one Scott consistently championed on the state level in Florida? Nope.

How about kitchen table tax provisions such as 529 savings accounts, which should be expanded to include homeschooling expenses, or Health Savings Accounts, which should be expanded to all Americans? Nothing from Scott on these.

This is beyond bizarre. Rick Scott as governor of Florida from 2011 to 2019 never raised a tax. He signed tax cuts every single year of his governorship. He has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge promising to oppose any and all tax hikes. 

As recently as 2021 Scott wrote“Tax increases are never the answer.” He also wrote“Raising taxes is never the answer.”

Indeed, Senator.

So who did write this tax plank? 

Everyone knows this tax increase is never going to happen. No other elected Republican has signed onto this tax hike.

But Scott is causing real damage to GOP candidates. Why? President Biden and the Democrats know how vulnerable Democrats are on their record of pushing enormous, actual tax increases: income tax hikes, small business tax hikes, capital gains tax hikes, corporate income tax hikes. Democrats tried to get rid of stepped-up basis at death in order to force a capital gains realization even if assets were not sold. During a deadly pandemic, no less.

Democrats are trying to double the size of the IRS and hire 87,000 new auditors and agents. They want the IRS to have automatic power to snoop on your bank accounts and your PayPal and Venmo accounts. The Democrats have also enacted a law to bury independent contractors in tax paperwork.

So every Democrat candidate is desperate to find something, anything to muddle the issue. Enter Rick Scott’s tax plank.

Democrats know the power of the tax issue. Before the vast majority of congressional Republicans signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge — and kept it — beginning in 1994, the Republican Party won control of the U.S. House and Senate for only four of the 62 years between 1932 and 1994. Only after the GOP became the party that would never raise taxes did the GOP earn control of Congress more than half of the years since. 

As the party that would not raise your taxes (although it just might invade small countries they could not pronounce) the GOP became a competitive party for national control. Very competitive.

Scott’s call for higher taxes on half of Americans, if not repudiated by House and Senate candidates in 2022 could cost the GOP its winning brand as the anti-tax hike party. 

Scott suggests that those Americans who do not pay federal income taxes in a given year are somehow without “skin in the game.” Nonsense. All Americans pay the damaging cost of the individual and corporate income tax and federal excise taxes and tariffs imposed by Washington. 

The federal income tax was never intended to hit everyone. At first, it targeted only higher-income citizens. Franklin D. Roosevelt — architect of the welfare state — called for extending the income tax down to average income citizens. His Treasury Department claimed this would increase “conscious interest in government.”

Scott’s tax idea shoves us toward big-government Europe where they impose a VAT (Value Added Tax) to ensure such “inclusion.” Bad idea. 

It was the Republican party — Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Donald Trump — that deliberately reduced the number of American households forced to pay the federal income tax. As shown by official IRS data comparing the tax years 2017 and 2018, the Trump/GOP Tax Cuts and Jobs Act took 3.67 million households off the income tax rolls and reduced the tax rates paid by all income levels.

Indeed, this is what Republican governors and legislators are doing in red states right now. More than a dozen states are phasing down their state income tax taxes towards zero by removing lower-income citizens from the income tax rolls while the rates on all taxpayers are reduced and moved to a flat rate tax en route to zero. 

Scott was for eight years the governor of no-income-tax Florida. Does he think Floridians have no “skin in the game” with respect to state government?

On the federal level, the damage done by the corporate income tax hits all Americans. As much as 70 percent of the cost of the corporate income tax is paid by workers in lower wages. One notes that when the corporate income tax was reduced by Republicans from 35 percent to 21 percent in 2018, by 2019 the median-income family of four saw its wages rise 6.8 percent or $4,400 — more than wages increased in all eight years of Obama.

Progressive economists admit that workers pay much of the corporate income tax in lower wages. And even the unemployed are hit by the corporate income tax as it raises the cost of goods and services for all Americans. 

Americans pay $100 billion in federal excise taxes per year. 

There are 30 million cigarette smokers in the country. They earn less than non-smokers and are more likely to be off the income tax rolls. They pay $1.01 in federal excise tax per pack, so a two-pack-a-day smoker pays $737 in such taxes per year.

Americans pay federal taxes every time they drink beer, wine or bourbon. 

Americans pay federal taxes on gas, guns, ammo, tires, airline tickets and fishing tackle. 

Tariffs can raise the cost of a car by thousands of dollars.

Every American’s life is damaged by federal taxes. And they know it. That is why they vote for Republicans. To reduce that damage.

Now every Republican on the ballot in 2022 is vulnerable to being smeared by the assertion that he or she somehow supports the Rick Scott tax hike. This is dishonest of course. But that won’t stop the establishment media and frightened Democrats from making that claim.

Now the GOP candidates have to spend time, energy and scarce campaign funds to distance themselves from a position they never took.

Not impossible. Just made necessary and more difficult by a single tax hike threat inside of a 128-plank manifesto.

Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.

Tags federal taxes IRS Rick Scott Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

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