Republicans’ tax-bill name fight shows why tax reform isn’t working

    President Donald Trump and Republican leaders are reportedly fighting over the name of their legislation to overhaul the tax code. Trump wants to name it “The Cut Cut Cut Act,” but is facing resistance.

They can’t even agree on a name.

Tara Palmeri reports for ABC News that President Donald Trump is insistent the House Republican tax bill – theoretically due to be released Thursday – should be called the “Cut Cut Cut Act,” but that congressional leaders don’t want to use this name.

How are Republicans going to agree on $3.5 trillion in revenue-raising provisions to partially pay for their tax cuts if they can’t even agree on a name for the bill?

This is the dumbest dispute of the tax reform saga so far, but it actually says a lot about how we got here and why Republicans are going to have so much trouble passing anything resembling the tax “framework” they’ve been pushing.

This kind of silly name Trump wants to use is based on an astute political observation: Normal people don’t care so much about “tax reform” in the abstract, but a lot of them like the idea of a tax cut.

But there’s a reason Republicans in Congress may feel the need to lead with the “reform” aspect: For a lot of American families, the bill they’re writing won’t be a tax cut. It will be a tax increase.

The exact figures will depend on the details in the legislation to be released, but the Tax Policy Center estimated 25% of American households would face a tax increase under the Republican plan by 2026.

The “Cut Cut Cut” name would therefore lead to an awkward question from many voters: If this bill is about cutting and cutting and cutting taxes, why are my family’s taxes going up? Why am I losing my personal exemptions and my state and local tax deduction? Why can’t I contribute as much to my 401(k) as I used to?

The problem for Republicans on taxes, as on healthcare, comes from none of their leaders having all the competencies they need.

Republicans in Congress have terrible political instincts and are wedded to unpopular ideas. Trump has pretty good political instincts: He knows “tax cuts” and “insurance for everybody” are better messages than whatever House Speaker Paul Ryan might come up with. But Trump is either too ignorant of policy to realize his legislative agenda doesn’t follow those instincts, or is too confident in his ability to lie effectively about what his policy agenda does.

Trump is onto something with the “cut cut cut” messaging. If he forced Republicans in Congress to scrap their tax plan and come up with something that actually cuts taxes for everyone who pays income taxes, he might even have a popular policy agenda to run on. But he’s not doing that.