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A Tea Party Activist On The Tax Bills


Republicans are getting closer to their first legislative victory, a vast tax overhaul passed early yesterday in the Senate along party lines. The bill still needs to be reconciled with the House version, but the GOP hopes to send a final bill to the president by the end of the year. There's been a lot of opposition from Senate Democrats to both the content of the bill and how it was crafted. And we will hear from them later in the program. But now we turn to Mark Meckler. He was co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots and is now president for Citizens for Self-Governance.

Good morning, sir.

MARK MECKLER: Good morning. Nice to be with you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're one of the early creators of the Tea Party movement, of which - one of the main tenets was fiscal responsibility, yet this tax bill is expected to add, I think, more than a trillion dollars to the national debt over 10 years and, if the tax cuts are extended, as it is hoped by the party, far more after that. Do you support the plan and why?

MECKLER: Well, I do support the plan, but I don't disagree with you about the crazy levels of spending by the federal government. The reason I support the plan is because it is much better than the status quo. This is the boldest rewrite of the tax code since 1996. You have small businesses who are going to benefit greatly. You have corporate rate going down to something that's competitive internationally. That means you're going to see job growth.

You have a repatriation rate pushed down to 14 percent for corporations, allowing them to bring back over $3 trillion. All of those things benefit the people who are most - my constituency, our constituency, which is the middle and lower classes, allowing job creation, job growth, real wage growth. We have a long history in America that when we lower rates, when we allow corporations to invest in America - that it grows jobs.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There is great debate about that, but I want to ask you if this is even tax reform. It certainly has measurable benefits for corporations and the very wealthy, but it's not a permanent tax cut for the middle class. Those reductions are temporary.

MECKLER: When we say those reductions are temporary, we have to remember that they go until at least 2025. So for most of us out there, regular working folks, seven years of tax reductions is a big deal. We can have that fight again in seven years. I'm sure the Democrats will be promoting increasing taxes in seven years. That's what the Democrats always promote. The Democrat plan today was to increase taxes by over a trillion dollars. So we have to remember what our alternative option was with the other party.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But why make it temporary for individuals who might need that tax relief when corporations, who are doing very well, get a permanent...

MECKLER: Yeah, you and I are on the same page. I think that's craziness. I don't like temporary tax reductions. I don't like temporary legislative fixes, generally. I want to see permanent legislative fixes. So I am against the fact that they are temporary, but I'd rather have, as a person who pays these taxes, as a middle-income person - I'd rather have seven years of tax reduction than what the Democrats were proposing, which was a trillion dollars in increased taxes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'd like to talk about the political ramifications. By and large, polls show this isn't popular, and it pushes through some very substantial changes in the financial lives of Americans. Do you think that there will be a cost come 2018?

MECKLER: No, I think what we're going to see is if the economic effects of this are positive, then it will have positive political ramifications. For the most part - and again, I'm just talking regular people. Regular people vote with their wallets. If the economy continues to improve, and we're seeing robust growth - the last growth number was 3.3 percent, which is extraordinary higher than anything we saw in the Obama era. If that kind of growth continues, if real job growth continues, if real wage growth continues, we're going to see a wave election for Republicans.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And how do you think the deficit problems will be resolved? How are you hoping that that will be addressed?

MECKLER: Well, I can tell you that people like me and organizations like mine will be pushing for in the new year real spending reform, and there's real spending reform to - had across the board. That's from the military industrial complex all the way through the welfare system. Senator Tom Coburn, when he was in the Senate, demonstrated, according to the CBO, over $400 billion of waste and duplicative spending every year. We ought to start there. And I'm hoping that the country can get rational. Both parties can begin to address that stuff beginning in 2018.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you think that Republicans will campaign on spending reform anymore?

MECKLER: You know, I don't know whether they will or not. It depends on how hard the grassroots push them. And I hope the grassroots do continue to push them on that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is it important to the grassroots to have that still?

MECKLER: Absolutely. I mean, fiscal responsibility is still a measure of what I would call conservative values. The problem is we just don't seem to see the Congress expressing those values any longer. The CBO and the GAO have both said that this kind of spending cannot be sustained. And what can't continue won't continue. So it's irresponsible for us not to deal with the spending issue.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Mark Meckler is the president of Citizens for Self-Governance. Thank you so very much.

MECKLER: Thanks for having me, Lulu. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: December 3, 2017 at 11:00 PM CST
In this interview, guest Mark Meckler of Citizens for Self-Governance says "the last growth number was 3.3 percent, which is extraordinary higher than anything we saw in the Obama era." In fact, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports comparable growth as recently as 2015 and significantly greater growth as recently as 2014.