Senate Republicans removed all the non-mystery of whether they might become part of the solution to America's infrastructure problems on Thursday when Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared bipartisan outreach dead.
"That package that they're putting together now, as much as we would like to address infrastructure, is not going to get support from our side," McConnell declared to reporters. "I think the last thing the economy needs right now is a big, whopping tax increase," McConnell added.
Of course, the GOP utterly failed over and over again to "address infrastructure" during the party's unified reign over the federal government under Donald Trump. In fact, Republicans proved so incompetent at addressing infrastructure that "It's infrastructure week!" became a much-loved Washington punchline to their many legislative failures.
So now that Democrats are taking up infrastructure in earnest, Republicans are actually doing them a favor by getting out of their way early. Even though the White House will go through the motions of reaching across the aisle, Democrats can just ignore them per McConnell's declaration.
And frankly, Republicans almost seem resigned to the notion that they've largely lost the debate already. As The Washington Post's Paul Waldman noted, by any previous standard, the GOP's current outcry over the idea of raising taxes in an infrastructure bill seems stunningly muted, not to mention anemic.
Maybe the jig is up and Republicans are actually tired of promoting baseless trickle-down economic arguments that have proven completely false for decades. McConnell himself asserted that the GOP's 2017 tax cuts for the rich and corporate-y would not only pay for themselves, they would be "beyond revenue-neutral." That was fanciful. They weren't even close, instead costing taxpayers nearly $2 trillion, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.
But one thing that's already crystal clear about the upcoming legislative debate: If Republicans are going to hang their hats on demonizing Democrats for funding their infrastructure bill by raising taxes on the rich and corporate-y, that ship sailed years ago.
There's a reason Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts ran on a wealth tax—it not only generated revenues for the many things she wanted to do, but it was overwhelmingly popular. When Reuters/Ipsos polled it in early 2020 at the outset of the Democratic primary, nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents agreed with the statement that "the very rich should contribute an extra share of their total wealth each year to support public programs”—that included 77% of Democrats and a 53% majority of Republicans.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll from February 2019 found that 76% of registered voters agreed that the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes. A Fox News survey from a month earlier showed that 70% of Americans favored raising taxes on $10 million earners, including 54% of Republicans. That survey also found that a 51% majority of voters preferred spending money on domestic programs over cutting taxes and reducing spending, favored by just 40%.
A Gallup tracking poll only buttresses the findings of those surveys. Over the course of several years, Gallup asked people whether they thought certain sectors of the country paid their "fair share" in taxes. Bottom line: Americans haven't thought that "upper-income" individuals and corporations have paid their fair share for many, many years.
Here's how many respondents said upper-income people don't pay their fair share:
- 2019: 62%
- 2018: 62%
- 2017: 63%
People were even less impressed with the contributions of corporations:
- 2019: 69%
- 2018: 66%
- 2017: 67%
McConnell might be pleasing all his rich and corporate donors by railing against tax increases on them, but public opinion is basically settled on the matter. Just as this week’s Politico/Morning Consult's poll found—taxing the rich and corporate-y actually makes Biden's infrastructure plan more popular, not less.
Given that reality, Senate Republicans up for reelection next year might just take a pass on heading up opposition to Biden’s eventual bill unless they can find an entirely different point of contention. But by all means, McConnell, keep on crowing about Democrats raising taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations to pay for making high-speed internet available in rural areas. Hear, hear!