Congress Taxes

Members of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee work to shape the GOP's far-reaching tax overhaul, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Nov. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

J. Scott Applewhite

The ink was barely dry on the Republicans' tax reform plan before there were predictions it would change.

Predictably enough, significant changes were being made the day after the huge announcement of the plan.

We again see a classic example of how legislating law works. There's no way to determine the merits of any legislation that's a constant moving target. The tax reform plan is simply the most recent example.

Take a look at the analysis of the plan within hours of its release. There's not enough time for politicians to read the plan, let alone parse their analysis of its finer points. Yet that's exactly the type of bloviating we received.

And it wouldn't be 21st century politics if the argument were anything but strictly partisan. So Republicans were touting the plan as a great solution to a huge problem. The changes the next day, we assume, presumably made it a greater solution.

The Republicans, of course, are not the exclusive purveyors of or supporters for premature legislation analysis. One of the more embarrassing moments of our democracy in the 21st century is former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim about Obamacare. “We have to pass the bill,” she said, “so that you can find out what is in it — away from the fog of the controversy.”

What Pelosi meant, of course, was there was significant good in the bill, but its detractors were seizing on negatives – some manufactured – to poison the well against the bill. But what it came to represent was politicians under mountains of influence and distraction passing a bill while themselves having no idea what was in it.

Every day, stories about what's in the tax bill will change. One group will tell you it's a gift to rich people. Another will say it's a boon to the middle class, while yet another will discuss how this is the last blow to destroy what's left on the middle class.

What's the truth? Could be either, could be neither. We don't even know yet. Large bills like those dealing with health care or taxes are notorious for starting in one form and ended up drastically in another. Given the current climate in Washington, there's every possibility that the legislators most passionately taking a side today will have flipped positions before the vote comes up for a final vote. How often do we see that playing itself out in Springfield?

It's not a futile idea to attempt to examine any bill and praise or condemn its specific fine points. But analysis of the bill right now is its own form of futile. Trying to do so would be like trying to push a thumbtack down to capture a stray piece of mercury.

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