There is a devious simplicity to President Donald Trump's latest strategy to boost Republicans in the coming midterms: He's making up a nonexistent plan to give the middle class a big new tax cut.
As disturbing as it is to be reminded we have a president willing to casually lie to America, it's telling that this strategy tacitly acknowledges the tax cut Republicans passed earlier wasn't actually for the middle class. Otherwise, why this 11th-hour fabrication about a new one?
In light of this, it's fair to ask Republican congressional candidates to explain why the promised wage hikes that the tax cuts were supposed to bring to working Americans haven't materialized. It's also fair to ask whether they're OK with a president being so mendacious in service to their campaigns.
When Republicans pushed through their $1.5 trillion tax cut last year, they said the windfall that the wealthy and corporations were getting would help everyone, creating more jobs and raising wages.
The promise of lower unemployment was a safe bet, tax cut or not, because unemployment was already dropping steadily, as it had been for years beginning in the Obama-era recovery. But with wages stagnant, the promise of raising them was a bright spot.
Working-class Americans are still waiting. Instead of using their tax breaks to significantly hike wages, corporations have made record stock buybacks, mostly benefiting the corporations and their investors. What modest wage hikes have come have been mostly offset by inflation.
Americans have figured this out; the tax cuts are stubbornly unpopular. No wonder Republican candidates who'd planned to make those cuts central to their campaigns are hardly talking about them now.
That kind of gear-shifting is a normal way of dealing with a campaign theme that didn't work out. But America's consistently abnormal president came up with another approach: just make up a new tax cut.
On Monday, Trump made an off-the-cuff announcement of "a very major tax cut for middle-income people" of "about 10 percent." Significantly, he stressed that "this is not for business, this is for middle income" — a virtual confession about what the first one was, and wasn't. He said it will start moving "sometime just prior to November."
That would be interesting, since Congress is out until after the Nov. 6 elections. Also, Trump didn't say how he'd pay for a massive cut when the deficit is already ballooning because of the first cut. Also, no one in Washington seems to know what he's talking about.
A president infamous for making things up has done it anew to give GOP congressional candidates something to dangle in front of voters. Those voters should keep in mind what such a tactic says about the real-life tax plan they already passed — and about the president most of those candidates enable.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH