Maybe I’m paranoid, but it seems like local Congress members are out to get me

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

By nature, I’m not really a paranoid guy, but it is starting to look like U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, U.S. Reps. Ryan Costello (R-6), Pat Meehan (R-7) and Lloyd Smucker (R-16) have it out personally for me and my family.

Okay maybe not personally — I’ve had cordial, even friendly relationships with some of them, and certainly interesting and insightful interviews with Costello, Smucker and Toomey, all three of whom I see as intelligent and thoughtful, even if I often disagree with them.

Meehan and his staff treat me like a leper (while Chester County Republicans seem to see me as annoying but mostly harmless in light of my past political activities, Delaware County Republicans seem to keep me on some sort of political terrorist watch list after I dared run against one of their own 13 years ago), so it is difficult for me to personally evaluate whether the former NHL official and U.S. Attorney is either intelligent or thoughtful. It may not help that I’ve often suggested Meehan needs to be on the back of a milk carton due to the lack of his visibility and involvement in Chester County (and yes, he’s actually my Congressional representative).

But, professionally, I kind of feel like they all have it out for me, my wife and two kids.

First there were the various versions of “Kill the Affordable Care Act, Ask Questions later,” bill.

Sure, it didn’t pass, but the chaos caused by them (and the uncertainly) mean that the renewal for our family health insurance is going to go way up this year (a year after rates went up and our deductibles did, also). I will note for those of you who love to trash the ACA (or Obamacare), it took until this year for our premiums to return to pre-ACA rates, so even with all of its imperfections, the ACA improved our care and reduced premiums.

Without question, it needs work (not to mention having an administration and Congress not trying to murder it) but for many millions of people, including me and my family, it’s been an improvement.

So while we ducked that hurricane (but still have to live with the storm surge it prompted), now we’re looking at this proposed tax plan.

Allegedly, it will cut taxes for everyone — at least according to U.S. House Ways & Means Chair Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who positively gushed about the bill Wednesday.

Toomey is a little more circumspect, but seems to have a Christmas morning attitude about the proposal:

“I see this as an amazing opportunity and responsibility. Enacting legislation consistent with this framework will allow us to achieve the growth that we’ve been waiting so long to achieve,” Toomey said in a statement issued Wednesday.

He then went into a full-throated defense of “supply-side” economics as motivations for being excited about the bill.

“There’s nothing normal about two percent growth for the United States of America,” he said. “We’re capable of so much more. When we get this right, I am confident that we will achieve robust growth. What that means for the hardworking families that I represent all across Pennsylvania is a direct pay raise when we lower their direct tax burden. It also means an indirect pay raise as more jobs are created and more businesses are launched. Upward pressure on wages allows people to have a higher standard of living.”

And, yup, more optimism:

“I am really excited about this opportunity and I am confident that we are going to seize the moment.”

Smucker, too, can hardly contain his excitement:

“Today Republicans released a vision to improve people’s lives and put more money back in the pockets of hardworking American families,” smucker said in a statement, Wednesday. “Our current federal tax code is broken, but we have the fix: give American families the opportunity to improve their lives through a simplified tax code.

“The plan cuts taxes for all Americans. This means bigger paychecks and more financial stability for millions of families that too often must tighten their household budgets because of stagnant wages. It means mothers and fathers can more easily save for their children’s college fund and plan for retirement. And it means it will be easier for young people graduating from high school and college to get a job, buy a home, and start a family.

“I went to Washington to improve the lives of the people I represent. These are exactly the types of reforms I wanted to see in a tax reform plan, and now is our best opportunity to reignite the American Dream. I’m proud of the effort that went into this framework, and I look forward to the work that lies ahead.”

Meehan was a bit lower in tone, noting that many details are still to be worked out:

“Our tax code is a mess,” Meehan said. “It’s riddled with overlapping and conflicting provisions that leave taxpayers frustrated and confused. Its rates are too high, and too many loopholes enable the elites to avoid them. It’s holding us back in the modern economy. Too much of a middle class family’s paycheck is going to Washington. A top-to-bottom rewrite is long overdue.”

“The tax reform framework released today is the work of months of effort. It will be a shot in the arm for job growth. It will help our workers and our businesses compete and win in the global marketplace. It unwinds the web of carve-outs and special interest loopholes. And it cuts taxes on small businesses, the drivers of our economy, empowering them to invest and hire.

“We lower the rates families pay, and we reduce the number of brackets by more than half. Enhancing the child tax credit puts more money into the pockets of working families. For some, it will be the difference between getting ahead or falling behind. We reduce the tax burden for many and enable more taxpayers to file with far less paperwork. All of these changes will mean Americans will keep more of what they earn – and paying what they owe will be less of a headache.”

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” Meehan continued. “Like the product of any compromise, it isn’t perfect. There are ways we can improve it, and I think we will. This isn’t reform for reform’s sake – it has the potential to improve the lives of millions of American families. We need to get it right. The framework released today is a serious, thoughtful path to revamping a broken tax code. I’m looking forward to working alongside Chairman Brady and my colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee to get big things done for American taxpayers.”

No word from Costello, so it’s unclear where he stands, but hopefully it’s not with his foot on my throat.

Not surprisingly, the state GOP Chair and Chester County’s own, Val DiGiorgio, loves the proposal.

“President Trump and Congressional Republicans are putting forward a tax reform plan that will provide much needed relief for Pennsylvanians,” he said in a statement, Thursday. “This pro-growth plan is focused on putting the middle-class first, cutting taxes, and increasing take-home pay, while simplifying the tax code. Just like President Trump, an overwhelming majority of Americans believe our tax code is broken and needs to be revamped.”

Plus, for fun, an obligatory shot at U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Jr.

“Senator Bob Casey’s obstructionism must end,” DiGiorgio said. “Bob Casey must come to the table to work with his Republican colleagues to make our tax code work for middle class taxpayers. I urge him to support this plan and put Pennsylvanians before politics.”

Here’s the problem: in looking at the proposal — and yes, it’s in rough form and may well change massively before it is approved, if it is approved — but in doing back of the envelope calculations, it actually raises my taxes and worse, will probably lower my already meager income.

Ouch.

The structural changes may well cut taxes for Donald Trump and wealthy, deeply-connected attorneys like Val DiGiorgio — and maybe, for those at the lower ends of the income scale, especially those without kids — but it seems like it puts a hurting on those of us with families in the middle to upper middle class. While I haven’t gotten a full report from my accountant, it looks like a lot of deductions we take will go away and will not be made up for by the increase in the personal exemption.

Worse, from my standpoint, would be removing the tax-deductible status for advertising. As you may know, we subsist entirely on ad revenue and you the readers get this content for free. If companies cut back on advertising because of the change of status, we’ll either have to look at closing up shop or charging you, the readers (essentially, a pass along tax).

The wider issue of essentially using the tax code to attack the media is a whole different discussion.

We can argue the impact on the federal deficit and whether “supply side” (history suggests not) works in all cases, but that’s for another day, too…I am understandably focused on the impact on my own family.

So, you can understand why it’s beginning to feel a little….personal.

Now, obviously, this isn’t the intent, hosing over countless families such as mine — there are great arguments for tax reform, the tax code is mess — but I suspect not enough people are running the numbers on how this might play out. Maybe this would work great for you and your family, but I’d advise running the numbers first before getting too excited.

If enough folks start to take it, well, personally, you might just see some hasty backtracking.

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