President Trump’s first major legislative victory suddenly put him in the awkward position of having to convince skeptical Americans that tax cuts will let them keep more of the money they earn.
Most Americans just aren’t buying what he’s selling.
“I’m sure it’s going to hurt me. I’m considered middle class,” said Gene Dean, 63, a communications engineer who lives on Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore, a conservative bastion that overwhelmingly voted for Mr. Trump last year.
Mr. Dean didn’t care that independent analysis found that the $1.5 trillion tax cut would benefit every income group next year or that only about 6 percent of Americans would pay more.
It just didn’t ring true for this Republican voter.
Resistance to the tax cuts — compounded by overwhelmingly negative coverage in the news media and relentless criticism from Democrats — poses a significant threat to Republicans up for re-election next year before voters file taxes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
The most immediate impact will be reduced withholding taxes in February, when the average worker can expect a $40 boost in bimonthly paychecks.
For now, Mr. Dean said, nothing the president or Republican lawmakers say could convince him that he would benefit from the tax cuts.
“I really don’t trust what’s going on in Washington anymore,” he said.
April Stanton had a similarly cynical view.
“I have a hard time believing it until I see it,” said Ms. Stanton, 41 and an employment coach for developmentally disabled adults. “The politics, the lies — I never know what to believe.”
Their reactions to the tax cuts helps explain the low poll numbers for the Trump initiative.
White House officials said Mr. Trump will be holding events across the country to sell the tax plan. Details of those events have not been released.
Even as they celebrated Congress’ final passage of the tax cut bill, Republican leaders acknowledged that they have to do a better job convincing Americans of the benefits they will receive.
“If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.
Many of the benefits for the middle class have not sunk in, including lower rates for every income bracket, a nearly doubled standard deduction and a doubled child tax credit to $2,000.
However, the most dramatic cut was to the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, which bolstered Democrats’ criticism that the bill was mainly for the country club and boardroom crowds.
A recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll found that 48 percent of Americans opposed the tax cut bill that won final approval Wednesday in Congress, while 32 percent supported it.
A 53 percent majority predicted their families wouldn’t pay lower taxes, and the same share said the legislation wouldn’t help the economy in a major way.
A poll by Morning Consult/Politico found that a 40 percent plurality opposed the corporate tax rate cut, while a 44 percent plurality opposed the cut of the top income tax rate to 37 percent from 39.6 percent.
While 67 percent of voters said the tax cuts would help corporation, voters split 35 percent to 33 percent on whether they would help or hurt “people like you.”
Four in 10 registered voters said they think the tax cuts would help middle-class families, compared with 33 percent who said it would hurt them, according to the poll.