Sunday, September 2, 2018
What role will the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act play in the 2018 midterms? Likely an insignificant one, according to a paper published today by the Brookings Institution.
In The ‘Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’ and the 2018 midterms: Examining the potential electoral impact, Brookings Fellow Vanessa Williamson examines how economic conditions have historically shaped electoral outcomes in the United States, and applies that research to the case of the TCJA. Second, she discusses how partisanship interacts with public attitudes about policy, and assess the likelihood that public perceptions of the TCJA will influence voting. Finally, she reflects on the role of money in politics, and how the TCJA might change the money available to different political interests both in the near and long term.
Williamson concludes that there are only a few avenues by which the legislation is likely to help Republican chances in this year's midterm elections and identifies several reasons the bill is unlikely to move the needle much in 2018:
- Individual voters are highly unlikely to reward Republicans for the income increase they personally saw from the TCJA because the tax cuts most people will receive are small.
- Additionally, the changes in take-home pay resulting from the TCJA are unlikely to change voters’ behavior because voters typically do not vote based on their own pocketbooks. Instead, the voting public is “sociotropic” in their economic assessments—responding to the ups and downs of the economy as a whole rather than changes in their own individual wellbeing.
- The short-term stimulative effects of the TCJA are also unlikely to matter much, both because the effects are small and because the economy matters less for midterm election results.
- The legislation is poorly situated to mobilize Republican voters, whose support for the legislation was lukewarm.
Though she concludes that the TCJA is unlikely to have much of an impact on the 2018 midterms, Williamson does note that in the long run, Republicans will likely benefit from the law’s upward redistribution targeted to their donor class.