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Republicans’ Response to Taxing the Rich? Tax the Poor.

GOP Sen. Rick Scott’s new plan would place a new tax on the bottom half of income earners in the U.S.

Sen. Rick Scott speaks during a press conference following the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on January 19, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

In the new GOP platform for the midterm elections, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) has laid out the Republican party’s response to Democrats’ rallying cry to tax the rich: slash funding for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and tax the poor.

“All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount,” reads Scott’s 11 point plan. “Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.”

While it’s true that about half of American households typically don’t pay income taxes, this is because their incomes aren’t high enough to pass the threshold for income tax liability; lower-income households also sometimes receive tax credits. Many low-income people still owe payroll taxes, however.

A new tax on the bottom half of income earners could have severely deleterious effects on the people already most in need of financial help, especially in a time when the wealth gap in the U.S. is multiplying. Such a measure would likely be extremely unpopular, and has already garnered criticism from top Democrats, who have pointed out that Republicans want to raise taxes on over half of Americans.

Scott denied on Fox News that his plan would implement new income taxes on over half of the country, despite the fact that this proposal is clearly outlined in his “Plan to Rescue America.” Other Republicans defended the 11-point plan. “He’s at least raising important questions over, ‘Should every American have some stake in the country?’” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

While he is advocating to raise taxes on lower-income families, Scott is also attempting to give the rich even more opportunities to dodge taxes. If Republicans retake power, the plan reads, “We will immediately cut the IRS funding and workforce by 50 percent.”

This would have an enormous impact on tax enforcement in the country. Republicans have already gutted the IRS over the years; in fact, the agency is so underfunded that it’s warned that this year’s tax season will be challenging because it is still catching up with last year’s tax filings.

As a result, the IRS hasn’t had the resources for years to go after wealthy tax dodgers, who can use sophisticated methods of tax dodging that are too complex for the agency to be able to track. Rather, with an insufficient budget and workforce, the IRS disproportionately audits low-income people who benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit. Meanwhile, the nation’s wealthiest people get away with paying little to no federal income taxes at all, allowing them to continue to accumulate unfathomable amounts of wealth.

The plan gives no real reason for gutting the IRS, though Republicans often argue for less punitive regulations for corporations and the rich, while advocating for more regulations for the poor. Democrats have proposed increasing IRS funding, but Republicans shot down a plan to increase the agency’s funding in negotiations for last year’s infrastructure bill, as corporations lobbied hard against the proposal.

If implemented, the GOP’s plan would raise taxes on the poor while providing even more tax loopholes for the rich. It’s ironic that the GOP is arguing that this plan would ensure everyone in the U.S. has “skin in the game” in order to benefit from public services or contribute to society, when it is largely the wealthy who get undue tax breaks despite not needing the extra funds to survive.

Scott’s plan also includes numerous extremist proposals that could actively harm the government and the public. The plan contains attacks on transgender people, leftists, schools, people of color, and much more. As part of the political right wing’s fascist attacks on education, the plan would shutter the Department of Education entirely. It would also bar any increases to the debt ceiling. Republicans have advocated for such limits to demonstrate their so-called fiscal responsibility, despite the fact that not allowing raises to the debt ceiling could be calamitous.

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