Brookings paper: GOP unlikely to benefit from tax law in midterms

Brookings paper: GOP unlikely to benefit from tax law in midterms
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The tax law President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates ambassador to Turkey Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago after signing bill to avert shutdown CNN, MSNBC to air ad turned down by Fox over Nazi imagery MORE signed in December is unlikely to have a big impact on the midterm elections, according to a new paper from the Brookings Institution.

"Given the deeply polarized political context, the TCJA [Tax Cuts and Jobs Act] is unlikely to shift many voters from their partisan camps," Vanessa Williamson, a governance studies fellow at Brookings, wrote in a paper released Monday.

The new tax law, which every congressional Democrat opposed, cuts tax rates for individuals and businesses and makes other changes to the tax code.

Republicans predict that the tax law will help them in the midterms, arguing that the measure is helping the economy and increasing people's take-home pay. But Democrats view the new law as beneficial to them in the upcoming elections, arguing that the law largely benefits wealthy corporations and individuals.

Williamson analyzed the potential impact of the tax law on the midterms looking at public opinion polls and political-science research.

She concluded that voters are unlikely to vote for Republicans because of the tax cuts they personally are getting, because voters rarely notice tax benefits they receive and most people are only getting a small tax cut under the new law.

"It is deeply implausible that voters will behave differently due to the very small changes the TCJA made in their individual take-home pay," she wrote.

While analysts have estimated that the tax law will provide a small boost to the economy in 2018, Williamson wrote in her paper that there's no link between economic growth and midterm-election outcomes.

"So even if the TCJA gives the economy a short-term jolt, Republicans running for re-election should not expect to benefit from it," she wrote.

Williamson also wrote that it will be challenging for Republicans to use the tax law to mobilize their base, because "during and after the legislation’s passage, Republican voters’ support for the TCJA not exactly full-throated." 

She added that Democrats might be able to use the tax law to mobilize their base, as Republicans were successfully able to mobilize voters in 2010 by attacking Democratic lawmakers who voted for ObamaCare. However, there isn't much evidence that Democrats plan to invest a lot of resources in making attacks on the tax law a prominent part of their campaigns.

The paper also took a look at how the tax law might impact the behavior of wealthy donors to political campaigns, since the wealthiest taxpayers are expected to receive the biggest tax cuts under the new law.

Williamson wrote that "it is not obvious how much the passage of the TCJA increased donor contributions to Republican campaigns in 2018, and the marginal effect of these funds for incumbent candidates is probably small." However, she said that in the long run, the law could give wealthy Republican donors more resources to use to shape politics.

"In the longer term, the TCJA funnels substantial resources to the Republican Party’s donor class, a process that will plausibly make American politics even more oligarchic," she wrote.