The Bubble: Media coverage of tax bill an 'attack on reality,' conservatives say
The most sweeping tax overhaul in three decades will make big changes to how families pay their taxes. The bill lowers tax rates for all income groups, but caps or eliminates many popular deductions. (Dec. 21)
Each week, USA TODAY's OnPolitics blog takes a look at how media from the left and the right reacted to a political news story, giving liberals and conservatives a peek into the other's media bubble.
This holiday season, the left and the right have been debating the significance of President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress' first major legislative achievement: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
While liberals have derided the bill as a give away to the rich and have said its unpopularity will help sweep them to power in the 2018 mid-term elections, conservatives have rejoiced over the bill's passing and believe voters will reward Republicans at the polls after they begin to see a bump in their paychecks.
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From the right: The tax bill is not Obamacare
Several commentators have compared the Republican tax bill to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, saying its unpopularity will lead to a wave of Democratic victories like the one that give Republicans control of the House in 2010 in the wake of Obamacare.
The Federalist's David Harsanyi agrees the tax bill is unpopular in opinion polls, but unlike the Affordable Care Act, "voters will probably like it once they find out what’s in it," he said.
Many Americans don't believe the bill is a major tax cut for the middle class because "those they trust are constantly lying to them," Harsanyi said. "Both in framing and content, the coverage of the tax cuts has been impressively dishonest."
Whatever valid concerns there are about debt or spending (and they are valid) the idea that tax cuts will have similar long-term consequences on voting as health care is unlikely. It is more likely that tax cuts will do little to change the dynamics of the coming years at all. But it is plausible that, because of the overreaction from the Left, millions of Americans who thought they were going pay more in taxes will find a new child credit and be thankful.
From the left: Tax cut won't save GOP from political disaster
Chances are slim that Republican dreams of electoral victory driven by the tax bill will come to pass, Paul Waldman wrote for The American Prospect.
Middle-class Americans are not likely to notice the small bump in their weekly pay, just as they didn't notice when then-President Obama and the Democrats cut taxes as part of the 2009 stimulus package, Waldman said.
The tax bill is also likely to further fire up already furious Democratic voters, he said.
"The partisan way it was passed, the absurd lies with which it was offered, the way the benefits are distributed — all will make it a rallying cry for an opposition party with no lack of motivations for its voters to get to the polls in 2018," Waldman wrote.
From the right: Media bias leads to 'another attack on reality'
The coverage of the tax bill shows the news media has not learned anything after being "humiliated" when it got the 2016 presidential race "so monumentally wrong," Kimberley Strassel wrote in The Wall Street Journal.
"Republicans are delivering bigger paychecks and the prospect of accelerated economic growth, and not a single Democrat can take credit," Strassel said. "The Democratic Party’s only path is therefore to spin an obvious GOP victory into a disaster. The press, with all its biases and insularity, once again is all in, with another attack on reality."
"The left and its media enablers got away with their Hillary fictions, too — until they had to report Donald Trump’s victory," she wrote. "The risk for the GOP here is that the early impression that this tax cut is “bad” could remain stuck in American minds."
From the left: Trump's credibility is why Americans don't believe they're getting a tax cut
Many Americans don't believe they are getting a tax cut despite estimates that as many as 80% of them will see some degree of a tax reduction. That's because Americans no longer believe what Trump tells them, said HuffPost senior White House correspondent Shirish Dáte.
"President Donald Trump’s falsehood-rich style appears to have come back to bite him as he brags about his only major legislative accomplishment," Dáte wrote. "Having passed tax cuts that provide modest help to most Americans, Trump and GOP leaders are finding that most Americans just don’t believe it."
For the president, the reason Americans don't know they're getting a cut is obvious, Dáte said. "Trump ― as he has done regularly whenever confronted with news he does not like ― blamed the media for the plan’s unpopularity," he wrote.
From the right: Ownership isn't theft
National Review's David French said the criticisms from the left against the tax bill as a "heist" and a robbery of the middle class represents "a fundamental redefinition of private property. It’s part of the Democratic march towards socialism, and it doesn’t just have implications for tax rates, it has grave consequences for civil liberties as well."
"The traditional view of private income and private property is clear. You own and control the money you make or the property you possess," French said. But increasingly liberals view private property as a public resource.
A conservative hears the language of “theft” and laughs. I’m not stealing from anyone if I’m allowed to keep more of my own cash. The progressive hears the same word and nods. After all, the government must fund “our” welfare state, and the more money a person has, the greater the government’s moral and legal claim on his resources.
From the left: 'The great American tax heist'
"With their tax bill, Donald Trump and the Republicans are raiding the Treasury in plain sight, throwing crumbs to the masses as the millionaires and billionaires make off with the cake," wrote Charles Blow in The New York Times. "America should be aghast not only at the looting but also at the brazenness of its execution."
The normally debt-conscious Republicans "willfully exploded the deficit" and, when that impact is felt, they will use it as an argument to slash the social safety net, Blow said.
"That’s the strategy: Appease the rich on the front end; punish the poor on the back. Feed the weak to the strong," Blow wrote.