Early Returns

Voters Hate the House's Tax Bill. Why Stand by It?

Here are your morning reads.

Reviled but not doomed.

Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Republicans' tax bill has been the talk of the nation for a week. But what's unclear is whether it will live or die, and whether it will be improved or ... not. 

One possible outcome is that Republicans will just go ahead and enact into law a bill which is very unpopular and may not even be well drafted. Not for the potentially sensible reason that they believe it will produce strong economic growth, but for the inane reason that they just have to pass something.

In fact, HuffPost's Matt Fuller and Arthur Delaney report that this sense of needing to do something will likely power the bill at least through the House. (The Senate is to reveal at least some of its tax plan on Thursday.)

That is, House Republicans are likely to vote for a bill that polls very badly and even raises taxes on many of their supporters mainly for what they think are good electoral reasons. This seems, well, like something that professional politicians wouldn't do. 

So why do it? 

I'll admit this is speculative, but I suspect this is a function of the closed conservative information loop. And in particular, I think there's a certain laziness involved. The fact that large portions of the Republican-aligned media are willing to cheerlead for things like this and that many of their strongest supporters get their news from those outlets makes a coherent defense of what they're doing unnecessary. And that, over time, makes it easier and easier to support ideas that aren't really all that well worked out.

Now, there are no absolutes here. There are certainly conservative outlets that do offer serious policy critiques, and it's absolutely true that Democratic-aligned media will tend to buy their party's spin on policy questions. But we shouldn't pretend to any equivalence here, either. Precisely because Republicans have a decades-long campaign against the "neutral" media, they have created a situation where they are less likely to need to defend their ideas outside of the party. (And, yes, those outlets that prize journalistic neutrality have plenty of biases of their own, but they are not simply partisan warriors.) 

As I said, this is speculative. And there are alternative explanations; some believe that Republicans support the tax bill simply because they do whatever wealthy donors tell them to do. Or perhaps they really do think, despite what economists tell them, that the bill will lead to an economic boom. But I don't think any of the alternatives explain the state of affairs as well as the simplest answer: just basic policy laziness. 


1. John Sides at the Monkey Cage on the Virginia governor race.

2. Dave Hopkins on the Tuesday elections

3. Seth Masket at Mischiefs of Faction on voters in Virginia

4. Dan Drezner has an excellent appraisal of how the U.S. political system is handling Trump. The only thing I'd add is more about the dangers of having a very weak president. 

5. And a very interesting Alyssa Rosenberg item about the Vietnam War. I just finished the PBS series the other day, and I highly recommend it. I could write about my various nitpicks with how this or that was presented, but for the most part I think it's first rate, and the history is, at least when it comes to the material I know pretty well, very well presented (I know less about the military aspects of it, more about the U.S. political history). I'm not sure how central the divisions over Vietnam are to the divisions of our time, but it's always good to know how we got where we are.

Get Early Returns every morning in your inbox. Click here to subscribe.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    To contact the author of this story:
    Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor responsible for this story:
    Philip Gray at philipgray@bloomberg.net

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.