The White House and leading conservative policy experts both chastised a leading Republican senator on Tuesday for calling for all Americans to begin paying federal income taxes.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, issued a “11-point plan to rescue America” that included a proposal for all Americans to pay some form of income tax, even if it was a small amount.
Approximately half of Americans in the bottom half of the income distribution do not pay federal income taxes because they do not earn enough to be taxed and many receive tax credits. Millions of these Americans do pay federal and state government taxes in the form of payroll taxes, sales taxes and other levies.
Scott’s pitch comes at a critical juncture in conservative policymaking, as Republicans debate whether they need a proactive agenda to run on in the 2022 midterm elections. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been adamant that the Senate Republican platform will not be released before the election, stating that the party only needs to reveal its plans for running Congress “when we take it back.”
Some Republicans have objected to this stance, believing that the party should present a set of policy priorities. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is assembling a comprehensive legislative package for House Republicans, for example. Scott’s 11-point plan includes a number of long-standing conservative initiatives, such as abolishing the Education Department, constructing President Donald Trump’s border wall, and declaring that there are only two genders.
According to Samuel Hammond, a policy expert at the Niskanen Center, another center-right think tank, the GOP tax cut of 2017 doubled the standard tax deduction — and thus the number of Americans who pay no federal income taxes. According to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank, approximately 100 million Americans will pay no income tax in 2021. This figure is expected to fall in 2022 as pandemic-era expansions of government programs expire.
Scott’s office declined to comment or provide additional details on how his income tax proposal would work. Scott stated that seniors would be exempt from the tax, but it was unclear how the nominal tax would still apply to all Americans. The proposal also appears to raise taxes on the working class and poor, who account for the vast majority of Americans who do not pay income taxes.
Some Republicans defended the senator from Florida’s pitch. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich praised Scott for attempting to craft a GOP policy platform ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, even though he did not support all of the platform’s specific ideas.
Among them is his proposal to cut the Internal Revenue Service’s budget by up to 50%, a provision that would make enforcing the nation’s tax laws significantly more difficult. His plan also includes a new “12-year” limit on the careers of all members of Congress and federal employees, with the exception of national security personnel, which would force dozens of current Republican lawmakers to resign. Scott’s proposal also eliminates increases to the federal debt ceiling in the absence of a declaration of war, despite the fact that Republicans under Trump repeatedly raised the nation’s debt limit to finance peacetime increases in government spending.
Indeed, Democrats pounced on Scott’s proposal. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced Wednesday morning that it will launch a multi-million dollar radio ad campaign highlighting tax increases for millions of Americans. Congressional Democrats argued that Scott’s remarks reflect the GOP’s belief that the majority of Americans do not work hard enough.
Most working Americans already owe taxes, according to Kyle Pomerleau, a tax expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a center-right think tank. According to Pomerleau, the only way to ensure retirees and those who are not working pay taxes is to tax government benefits such as Medicare; enact a federal consumption tax that includes people who are not working; or simply require the unemployed to pay a fee. Scott has not stated which of these options he would prefer.