Tuesday, March 21, 2017

As the World Turns . . . TrumpCare Turns Into Border Adjustment Tax?

Will Trump and Ryan jam the new TrumpCare healthcare reform through the House?  The bill leaves a lot to be desired but because the Republicans deem it impossible to gain even ONE vote from Democrats, the healthcare law is critical to everything, literally everything, they want to do.  Without the savings from the repeal of Obamacare, ultimately, they cannot proceed on tax reform.

So, even if the law leaves a lot to be desired, regardless of your political stripe, the Republicans know that without it, they are stalled and stuck in the mud. This creates tremendous pressure to vote "yes" and hold your nose.

Of course, regardless of "inevitability", that does not save the Republicans.  The healthcare bill disenfranchises 24 million Americans from health insurance, notably many older and lower income people, and provided a big tax windfall for higher income people.  Not very good optics. And the bill is woefully incomplete and makes a poor case for better economics.  There is a reason for this.  The healthcare bill must fit within the constraints of a reconciliation vote.  Thus, many market-friendly and patient-friendly terms cannot be included in the bill without risking a Senate filibuster.  That is, if no Democratic votes can be obtained.  So this is all they can get right now.

So the delicious dilemma of the rank-and-file Republicans is which vote is more likely to be survivable - "yes" or "no"?  "Yes" means they are voting to take health insurance away from millions. "No" means they have failed to repeal Obamacare after eight years of complaints and promises.  Perhaps more importantly, IMHO, "no" means that the specious campaign promises of lower costs and better coverage could not be achieved.

And then there's the risk of appearing too cozy with Trump.  His disapproval ratings right now are epic and historic.  The path to greater political unity and popularity seems uncertain, to put it charitably. He's one tweet away from no credibility at all.  Supporting him could be very toxic at the midterm polls. Will Trump's base come out in the midterms and exact revenge on folks that oppose him? This is the question that Republicans must ask themselves as they figure out which line to cross. Normally, midterms do not favor the party in power.

Without healthcare reform passed into law, tax reform is likely dead for now.  If that happens, the Republicans will have squandered an opportunity that may never reappear.  The pressure will be enormous to vote yes to preserve the larger gains.

All of this makes the next few days are critical to the BAT war.  If the healthcare bill crashes in the House, the BAT probability goes down, and Ryan's standing also declines.  If healthcare gets out of the House, then Ryan's (and Brady's) star rises and BAT continues to breathe.  The political logic that may propel a bad healthcare law forward could possibly work the same magic on the BAT.  I think the two are different issues, and the political environment will likely degrade long before any tax legislation moves forward in the House.  Each of these votes is a campaign-in-a-can, and I am sure the Democrats are rubbing their hands in glee.

Kevin Brady is continuing to bang the drum for his Border Adjustment Tax.  After all, he sold his soul to get his job at Ways nad Means, and the price was the BAT.  He intoned on CNBC today: "My sense is that border adjustability has become a given. That it will be part of the final tax reform plan and now the discussions are how can it be designed in transition in a very positive way for importers,"   Brady and Ryan continue to own the airwaves and as such, remain a very potent force on this subject, notwithstanding the poor policy they advocate.  They are determined to so a Smoot-Hawley on us.

Watch the news closely in the next few days.  The progress of healthcare may tell the tale of the BAT, or at least give hints at the ability of Ryan and Brady to pull it through a vote.

No comments:

Post a Comment