Another Opportunity Missed

By Alec Pruchnicki

Monday morning quarterbacking is very easy. Even football teams do this when they go over films from their last games. So, it’s reasonable that people interested in politics do the same when going over the failures of the last election.

In the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans flipped several congressional seats held by Democrats. There has been a lot of debate about how the New York State Democratic party lost these seats, even accounting for the usual loss of districts in a mid-term election. I would like to add another reason why we lost and the reason is in Washington.

President Trump pushed through a limit on how much state and local taxes could be deducted (SALT deductions) from annual income tax returns. Some of this might have been to reduce the budget deficit (unlikely) or out of spite to screw the high tax states that are usually Democratic (very likely). But when the Democrats had the House and the Senate, they didn’t reverse this policy to benefit Democratic run states. Why not?

The primary reason given in the press is that the major beneficiaries of such a reversal would be high income individuals and not just the middle class and upper middle class. Some estimates stated that half of the money by such a reversal would go to individuals making $1 million or more in income. Democrats are justifiably loath to make the rich ever richer and this was one of the main reason the SALT deductions were not changed.

But, was it impossible to find some middle ground? Couldn’t the SALT deductions be raised to some intermediate point that would help the middle class and not be a complete bonanza for the super wealthy?
As though they would have to share in the savings in part? As best as I can estimate, when the SALT deduction was changed, my income tax payments went up about $10,000 a year. A change of this magnitude would not get me to change from Democrat to Republican, or visa versa if I were a Republican, but other upper middle-class voters might be swayed.

For years the Republicans had lured the middle class by harping on taxes and this was a golden opportunity for Democrats to give the middle class the benefits of indirect tax cuts that the Republicans often promised. In New York alone, many of the congressional seats that flipped from Democrat to Republican in 2022 were in suburbs where local and state taxes have always been a major issue. If the SALT deductions had been reversed, if only partially, every Democrat running in those districts could have run on the platform that the Republicans screwed you tax payers and we Democrats helped you. But, we didn’t.

Don’t Democrats want to attract more voters? Do we think that our electoral successes are so significant that we can ignore a large voting block? In the same way that we have ignored going after white working-class voters (“What’s the Matter with MSNBC?” The Village View, May 2023) we have lost an opportunity to go after middle class voters also. Maybe this is overconfidence in our current electoral strength, buoyed by recent despicable decisions by the Republican Supreme Court of the United States. Maybe this is the belief that Democratic policies are too despised by these voting blocks and appealing to them would not be worth the trouble. Maybe these groups are beyond us and we should just write them off. I think these positions are all wrong. Many elections are won by razor thin margins. Although Biden beat Trump by about seven million votes, a change of under 50,000 votes in key swing states would have given the electoral college to Trump and he would be in the White House now. Or, he will be in the White House in 2025 if we continue to ignore major voting blocks and persist in our confidence that running up millions of votes in California and New York is enough.

Karl Rove, the Republican strategist had a tactic of going after opponent’s strengths and not just weaknesses. We should learn from this. There are at least a few rural Republicans who realize that they benefit from Democratic policies like adequate funding for FEMA, high speed internet, rural hospitals and Medicaid. There must be some Evangelical Republicans who realize that they are going to hell, literally, if they keep voting Republican. There must be some very rich folks who realize that behaving ethically can be just as rewarding as getting higher up on the Bloomberg Index of the world’s richest people. There must be some anti-abortion fanatics who are torn when one of their loved ones needs a life-saving abortion. A small number of any of these voters might make a big difference. Otherwise, be ready for some very sad Monday morning quarterbacking in November of 2024.