Speaking of Republican governors and regressive taxes, two other potential 2016 contenders have introduced new plans that would raise taxes on the least well-off citizens of their states. Last week, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell unveiled a new transportation proposal that would abolish the 17.5 cent per gallon gas tax, and replace it with a 0.8 percent increase in the sales tax. Put another way, McDonnell wants to further subsidize car owners, and make up the revenue by increasing taxes on all other Virginians—including those who neither drive nor own cars. The burden of these new sales taxes will, of course, fall hardest on lower-income Virginians.
Not to be outdone, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has proposed a cut to the state’s income tax. His Republican allies in the state house say they would like to see an across the board cut, targeted to individuals and families earning from $20,000 to $200,000 a year. On its own, this seems reasonable. But when coupled with Walker’s other initiatives—cuts to social service programs, and cuts to tax credits for seniors and the working poor—it’s a clear instance of redistribution to high earners.
If there was anything that weighed down Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency, it was his clear disregard for the interests of lower-income Americans, personified by his comments on the “47 percent.” While the Romney had detailed plans for cutting taxes and putting money in the pockets of “job creators,” he had little to offer those people who work for their livelihoods, and don’t need lower investment taxes.
Of course, this wasn’t a Romney problem as much as it was a GOP one. After all, his platform reflected the priorities of the entire Republican Party: low taxes, low regulations, and a vastly diminished social safety net. And despite the constant talk of reform from national Republicans, none of this has changed.
As demonstrated by the actions of Jindal, McDonnell, Walker, and others, Republicans are still committed to shredding the welfare state. The only difference between now is that they’ve replaced the gleeful delight of last year—as they worked towards rolling back the Obama years—with more somber talk of “responsibility.” It’s not that they want to cut benefits and redistribute income to the wealthy, it’s that the math demands it.