Democratic presidential candidates want to roll out ambitious government programs and attack the Republican tax cuts.
Early policy proposals in the 2020 race to take on President Donald Trump show they will try to do both in one swipe.
With the election still about a year and seven months away, the crowded Democratic primary field has mostly gathered donations and set up campaign foundations in early nominating states. But candidates have started to release plans to dramatically expand social programs, ease the tax burden on working-class Americans and overhaul U.S. infrastructure, among other proposals.
Many proposals released this early in the primary process lack the detail that could emerge later in the campaign. Still, some Democratic presidential candidates have specifically targeted provisions in the Republican tax law as they put forward their own programs.
- Sen. Kamala Harris of California wants to give $2.8 trillion in federal tax credits to lower- and middle-class families. Her plan provides a direct counter to the Republican proposal, under which the $1.5 trillion in cuts skewed toward companies and wealthier Americans. She wants to pay for the measure in part by reversing the pieces of the GOP overhaul that “benefit the rich,” as well as by putting “a new tax on large financial institutions,” according to The Washington Post. Harris’ campaign did not immediately respond to a request to comment on what specific changes she would want to make to the law. It is unclear how much of the cost of the credits her revenue-raising methods would cover.
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has put forward a $1 trillion plan to rebuild U.S. infrastructure. To pay for it, she wants to raise the corporate tax rate to 25 percent and close loopholes that encourage companies to move operations overseas, among other changes. The GOP law cut the corporate rate to 21 percent from the previous 35 percent. Her plan rebuts Trump’s own infrastructure proposal, which has failed to make any progress on a split Capitol Hill.
- Former Rep. John Delaney also wants to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure, paid for by hiking the corporate tax rate to 25 percent.
- Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey aims to give every child born in the U.S. $1,000 in a savings account. The government would put more money into the account, which the Treasury would manage, until children turn 18, when they can use the savings for purposes such as education and homeownership. Booker wants to pay for the plan in part by increasing the estate tax, which the GOP partly defanged in 2017 by doubling the exemption from it.
- Various other Democratic candidates including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont want to roll back the GOP tax cuts and implement new taxes on the wealthy to fund social programs such as universal child care and “Medicare for All.”
Going after the tax cuts is a politically convenient way to cover at least some of the costs for the sprawling proposals. While tax reform was the top legislative achievement of Trump’s first term, it never caught on with voters as Republicans had hoped. Democrats have attacked the tax law as a giveaway to corporations and the rich at the expense of the middle class.
By including changes to the GOP law in their own plans, Trump’s rivals target the president on two fronts. They can put forth proposals in areas they say Trump has neglected, while taking steps to scrap a law they have long criticized.
“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was strikingly unpopular; it was, in fact, less popular than many tax increases in recent years,” Vanessa Williamson, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, said in an email. “Democratic candidates are making a politically savvy move when they promise to rescind the legislation.”
Trump, weighed down by a relatively low approval rating, will have to use a strong economy to his advantage in 2020. During his early campaign rallies, the president has touted the jobs market and gross domestic product growth.
He has cited the GOP tax cuts as one of the reasons for the health of the overall economy.
“We passed massive tax cuts, the biggest in the history of our country,” he said at a campaign rally in Michigan last week. Adjusted for inflation, the tax reductions are not actually the biggest ever.
Williamson does not believe Democrats face much risk among voters by running against the tax plan, though she thinks bigger donors — who tend to be more economically conservative — could oppose the messaging. Still, she doubts Trump and congressional Republicans will make the tax cuts a big part of their message next year, especially after they largely abandoned the issue in favor of immigration rhetoric before last year’s midterms.
While Republicans gained Senate seats last year in mostly pro-Trump territory, the House GOP lost 40 seats and its majority.