Democrats this week tried a new approach in their battle against the Republican tax cut bill: lying by omission.
Starting Monday, Democratic leaders released a talking point that said the bill would actually raise taxes on 86 million middle-class households or families, despite GOP claims it would reduce taxes for most people.
"History will indeed remember this vote. Future generations of Americans will remember who cast their votes to raise taxes on 86 million middle-class households," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., on the House floor.
What Democrats tried to hide is that their statement is based on one part of the Tax Policy Center's analysis of the GOP bill, which focused on what would happen in 2027, after the individual tax cuts are set to expire.
What's the immediate impact of the GOP bill, starting in 2018? Why, tax cuts for almost everyone, of course.
"We find the bill would reduce taxes on average for all income groups in both 2018 and 2025," the Tax Policy Center said. It said 80 percent of taxpayers would get a tax cut in the first year.
But Democrats don't like that part of the analysis, so they ignored it. And to make the argument that 86 million middle-class households would see a tax hike, they relied on the omission of several specific details.
First, the Tax Policy Center makes no mention of "86 million middle-class households" or "86 million middle-class families" in its study. Democrats appear to have estimated that number based on a section of the group's analysis about what happens in 2027, after almost all of the individual tax provisions expire.
In that year, 53 percent of taxpayers would pay more under the GOP's bill compared to current law. Taxes would go up slightly, on average, for most taxpayers because the bill would reduce the rate at which tax brackets are increased to reflect inflation, which would have the effect of pushing taxpayers more quickly into higher brackets as their incomes rise.
How much would this tax hike be for these taxpayers due to this change to the inflation rate? On average, $180 per year — a minimal increase after several years of a significant tax cut totaling several thousand dollars for most taxpayers.
So, Democrats are purposefully ignoring the actual tax cuts in the bill, and is relying on estimates about what will happen a decade from now, never mind that Washington is particularly bad at seeing 10 years down the road. This, Democrats say without explanation or blushing, is why the bill will raise taxes on "86 million middle-class families."
Democrats are also dodging another scrap of useful information: One way to kill this small average tax increase is to make some or all of the individual tax cuts permanent, something on which Republicans would be happy to cooperate.
Democrats have been caught lying before. When the first version of the bill was released, they saw a report that said 8 million middle-class families would be hit with an average tax increase of $800, and told the world that all middle-class families would see this increase.
The Washington Post gave Democrats four Pinocchios for that talking point.
Late Tuesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, used the polite, clubby language of Washington to call out Democrats for their new line about how the tax bill would raise taxes on 86 million families. He complained that Democrats were creating a "rhetorical fog" by focusing only on 2027, and ignoring the actual tax cuts in the bill when they talk about it.
Or in other words, Democrats are lying by omission.