WashEx: Trump struggles to convince Americans he cut their taxes

I spoke with Colin Wilhelm of the Washington Examiner about stubborn public perception of the tax law on the first tax day under the new code.

In fact, about two-thirds of households received tax cuts in 2018, according to an estimate from the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank. Only 6% saw tax hikes.

But the perception that more Americans saw a tax increase than not persists.

“No one really knew if they were going to get a tax cut for the first year, year and a half that it was enacted,” said Liam Donovan, a tax lobbyist for Bracewell and former staffer for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “You already have some of this baked in because this is our second April 15 to come through. Just the sheer length of time from then through now makes the causal link harder.”

Donovan noted that most individuals who received tax cuts got them on an incremental basis, withheld from their biweekly paychecks. Families didn’t get a tangible sign of the tax cuts — there was no single big check in the mail — which likely made it hard for them to keep track of whether they benefited.

Democratic presidential candidates have floated proposals to undo the tax cuts. But Donovan, who saw political parallels between the dynamics of Obamacare and the GOP tax overhaul, thought that would be easier said than done.

“If and when Democrats try to unwind this it comes with a similar risk, in that people don’t like change but that works in both directions,” Donovan said. “Because it’s the devil that you don’t know and the tax system is as winding, and nearly as complex, as the health system.”

Read the full piece here.

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WEX: Democrats vilify the Trump tax cuts for generating smaller refunds

I spoke to Colin Wilhelm of the Washington Examiner about early IRS data indicating a dip in the average tax refund, and the political implications for TCJA:

It remains to be seen whether the tax season confusion shifts public opinion. Recent polling on the law from late January and early February, by CNN and the Economist/YouGov respectively, places approval for the law a bit above disapproval or about the same as dispproval.

“That’s basically Trump approval right there,” said Liam Donovan, a former staffer for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and tax policy principal at the law and lobbying firm Bracewell, referring to the Economist/YouGov poll showing the tax law at a 41 percent approval rating among registered voters.

“I think Democrats have oversold the narrative that this is just a handout for big banks and [stock] buybacks and Wall Street,” Donovan said, adding that small business owners might move opinion of the law into positive territory when they start seeing the benefits of the new tax breaks the overhaul created for them.

But Donovan wasn’t so sure opinion would change too much in the near future, arguing that most Americans had made up their mind.

“To some extent it was polarized from the get-go because it was a partisan exercise,” said Donovan. “I think people are pretty politically motivated in how they view it.”

Read the full piece here.

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AP: Democrats mute calls for Va. resignations with power at risk

I spoke to Nick Riccardi from the Associated Press about the political fallout in Virginia as the commonwealth’s top three constitutional officers face increasing pressure amidst a crescendo of scandals:

The subdued response from national Democrats shows how their zero-tolerance approach has put them in a bind. The party has prided itself on policing its own and hoped to contrast that record with the GOP’s tolerance of misbehavior by President Donald Trump. Now the party will have to decide whether to stick with its principles or retain its political power.

“The party’s put in an odd position,” said Liam Donovan, a Republican strategist who, like much of the political world, watched Virginia’s developments with astonishment Wednesday. “Let’s say they live by their standards and clean house. The stakes are very real now because the line of succession goes through the other side.”

Read the full piece in the Charlotte Observer here.

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