Dems seek to undermine any good PR for tax law

Dems seek to undermine any good PR for tax law
© Greg Nash

Democrats worried the GOP tax-cut law is getting good press are working hard to undermine any positive feelings about the overhaul and prevent them becoming engrained with the public.

Since the measure passed Congress last month, a wave of companies has announced bonuses for employees, and some polls have shown an increase in support for the law.

In remarks on Wednesday and Thursday, the top two Democrats in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage MORE (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDemocrats are playing voters on their fantasies for impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Trump tells House investigators 'no' Seven big decisions facing Biden in 2020 primary MORE (Calif.), lashed out at the new law and sought to downplay the significance of the bonus announcements.

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They argued that the tax cuts will largely be a boon to corporate shareholders, rather than middle-class workers.

“Whatever they’re doing, it’s nice, it’s cute, it’s not commensurate with what advantage they have in the tax bill, and it’s not fair to the American worker,” Pelosi said at an event in Florida on Thursday.

Dozens of Democratic lawmakers held teach-ins over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend to make the case against the tax law to their constituents, and Pelosi on Wednesday urged her colleagues to hold more of those events during the first two weekends in February.

The top House Democrat said that the middle class is getting a “crumb” while shareholders are getting a “bonanza”

Schumer spoke on the Senate floor on Wednesday about companies that have announced layoffs despite the tax cuts, as well as about companies that have announced stock buybacks.

“When the American people learn that some of them are not getting anything, some of them are getting raises and the rest are getting crumbs, and big corporations and wealthy individuals are getting nice, fat pieces of pie, they are going to be outraged,” Schumer said. “They are already.”

The public relations battle is a key part of the midterm election fight, with Republicans arguing their stewardship of the economy is a reason why they should retain GOP majorities in the House and Senate.

Democrats believe the House majority is firmly in play, as historically the president’s party typically loses seats in a midterm election. President TrumpDonald John TrumpForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Lara Trump: Merkel admitting migrants 'one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany' Financial satisfaction hits record high: survey MORE’s low approval ratings and Democratic wins in local elections in several states at the end of last year have bolstered Democrats' hopes.

Winning the Senate back is a steeper climb for Democrats, but they have some hope after winning a special election in Alabama, which left the GOP with just a 51-49 edge.

Republicans have made the tax cuts a major part of their messaging, and have hailed announcements of companies promising bonuses to workers.

A list compiled by Americans for Tax Reform, the anti-tax group helmed by Grover Norquist, includes 250 companies that have announced bonuses, wage increases and/or benefit increases following the tax bill’s passage. Among those on the list are major companies such as Home Depot, Starbucks and Walmart.

Republicans have also looked to seize on comments from Democrats denigrating the tax law.

The GOP seized Thursday on comments by Rep. Debbie Wasserman SchultzDeborah (Debbie) Wasserman SchultzOvernight Energy: Trump moves to crack down on Iranian oil exports | Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state's coast | Bloomberg donates .5M to Paris deal Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state's coast Wasserman Schultz: 'We need a President, not a comic book villain' MORE (D-Fla.) that dismissed $1,000 bonuses. The lawmaker noted that was before taxes, and that $1,000 didn’t amount to much over a year.

Pelosi’s remarks about “crumbs” have also been turned into attack lines by Republicans.

“Democrats have completely lost touch with the American people,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyCongress can retire the retirement crisis Social Security won't be able to fund full payouts by 2035 Treasury to miss Dem deadline for Trump tax returns MORE (R-Texas) said. “Workers and families across the country are getting bonuses, raises, and more benefits as a result of tax reform — and they’re going to keep more of what they earn in each paycheck. People in my district don’t call that crumbs — they call that real money.”

Frank Clemente, executive director of the progressive group Americans for Tax Fairness, acknowledged concern about the public relations effort from both Republicans and corporations linking bonuses or pay to the tax law.

“We are concerned that both of those things will be able to pull the wool over the [eyes of the] public,” he said.

Still, Clemente and others on the left said they doubt the tax bill will become popular given that it is centered on a big cut to the corporate rate, which was reduced from 35 percent to 21 percent.

“Instinctively, real voters and independents think this is going to help the wealthy and corporations and not them,” said Democratic pollster John Anzalone.   

Democrats are hammering home the argument that the bill is primarily for the rich by highlighting the companies that have announced stock buybacks and layoffs since the tax law was passed. Some of the companies that have announced layoffs, such as Walmart and AT&T, also announced bonuses.

They also are arguing that businesses are not making wage increases and investments purely because of the tax law.

“Don’t believe the hype,” Seth Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said at the Florida event, which was hosted by the liberal Not One Penny campaign.

“When workers get a raise, it’s because they earned that raise,” he added. “And when they get a one-time bonus, it doesn’t necessarily translate into permanent wage increases of the kind that we need to really grow the economy in a way where everyone benefits.”

Besides seeking to undercut the bonus announcements, Democrats are also pointing out other issues they have with the new law. In particular, they are noting that it is expected to increase the deficit and say Republicans will want to pay for the tax cuts by making cuts to entitlement and welfare programs in the future.

“This tax cut for corporate America is theft,” Pelosi said. “It is theft from the future.”

GOP lawmakers have criticized Democrats’ attacks on businesses’ bonus and wage announcements, saying they show that Democrats don’t understand the issues members of the public are facing. Republicans also say many of the positive benefits of the tax law are expected to occur in the long term, as businesses bring jobs back to the U.S. and increase their investments in this country.

“It’s a sad day when Democrats are rooting against American families doing better. Whose side are they on?” said Doug Andres, a spokesman for Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanAppeals court rules House chaplain can reject secular prayers FEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday MORE (R-Wis.).