The hole between GOP and Corporate America opens Biden’s tax plan

The meetings were in part the result of efforts by the Biden administration to capitalize on the growing divide between American corporations and the Republican Party to sell the nation off with tax increases of more than $ 2 trillion.

“We gave priority to public relations. We believe they have an important role to play and that their voice matters, ”said Zach Butterworth, White House director of private sector engagement. “They know we operate in good faith and that we propose policies that are good for workers and good for business.”

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The strategy aims to curb the ferocity of corporate opposition to the tax hikes, which is probably the most controversial part of Biden’s employment and infrastructure package. White House officials have argued to corporate executives that the tax hikes are necessary to fund large investments in public infrastructure that the corporate sector has long sought. However, Democratic officials also recognize that their efforts can bring about a quick reconciliation between the GOP and the business community, and jointly propel them against a common enemy.

According to her spokeswoman, Trade Minister Gina Raimondo has spoken to more than 50 senior executives about the plan in the past few days.

“Something [executives] said they were okay with the proposed tax hikes; others have said they expect a corporation tax hike “and were relieved that Biden isn’t pushing for it to be raised to 35 percent,” Raimondo said in an interview. The corporate income tax rate was 35 percent before Trump’s tax law for 2017. “Others have said that there may be room for compromise on the rate or that the base doesn’t need to be broadened as much. To which I say: ‘The President was very clear; There is room for compromise. ‘”

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Corporate America’s relatively subdued response to significant tax hikes has been unthinkable until recently and reflects major changes in US policy – the most important of which may be the recent dispute between the GOP and business elites.

When the Republicans of Congress worked to approve a $ 2 trillion tax cut in 2017, the GOP and the American company worked seamlessly to build support for the measure and turn it into law.

This relationship is under unprecedented strain. Republicans in Congress are outraged by corporate criticism of GOP-backed election restrictions and positions on issues related to the culture war. Meanwhile, business groups have increasingly viewed the GOP as a dangerous partner that is toxic to their brand and detrimental to their ability to recruit young workers.

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“Capitol Hill Republicans and big corporate groups like the Chamber [of Commerce] are not as close as they used to be. And that weakens their ability to influence the tax burden; It just does, ”said Matt Mackowiak, who heads the Potomac Strategy Group, a Republican political and business advisory firm.

The rift began under former President Donald Trump, but accelerated dramatically following the January 6 uprising at the Capitol and disagreements over a new Georgian voting rights law. These disputes add to months of battles over other issues such as climate change and transgender rights, in which parts of American companies have tried to break away from the conservative base. GOP lawmakers like Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) Have urged the lifting of antitrust immunity for Major League Baseball – which postponed the all-star game from Georgia due to electoral law – and said the “cancellation culture” the elite has infected business circles.

“It’s a thankless job defending American corporation, and it’s even more ungrateful when American corporation stabs you in the eye at the same time,” said Brian Riedl, former advisor to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who is now works at the Manhattan Institute think tank. “When I speak to Republicans, they are very, very frustrated about it. Exhausted defending the 2017 tax cuts from attacks that were too rich for the rich, they see no political advantage in defending low corporate taxes. “

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More and more Republicans are taking a more aggressive stance towards large corporations. Andrew Surabian, a Republican strategist, said, “If these companies want to behave like mini-governments and work with the other side continuously, we should stop pretending they are our allies. If they are not our allies, then why should we ever waste political capital on some of the very unpopular things they want to get done in government? “

Of course, corporate groups and Republican lawmakers alike have criticized the Biden tax plan for being likely to harm American workers and US competitiveness internationally.

Senate Minority Chairman Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Along with other GOP leaders, has repeatedly criticized “massive tax hikes for all productive parts of our economy”. Republicans have ruled out supporting an infrastructure package that includes corporate tax increases, and instead pressed for the funds to come from user fees.

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A senior Senate Republican adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal thinking, said: “Regardless of what the business community does, Republicans will never fail to stand up against Democrats who raise their taxes . “

And many people in both the GOP and the business world believe that as corporate tax hikes get closer to reality, the gap will widen. Republicans in Congressional steamed last fall as the U.S. Chamber, a traditionally secure ally of the GOP, endorsed an unprecedented 23 House Democratic legislature in the 2020 election. But last week the group came out with a violent assault on the Democratic suffrage law as a possible sign of reconciliation. The National Association of Manufacturers warned Biden tax hikes that would “cost a million jobs” while the influential Business Roundtable launched an advertising campaign against the measure.

Still, the White House’s tax plans have divided the business world in ways that few have predicted. For example, many small businesses are largely spared Biden’s proposed tax increases, and their proponents have been relatively quiet against the measure. Other groups of companies are expected to benefit significantly from other parts of the law, such as research and development funding and infrastructure investments.

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Amazon, for example, confused some GOP lawmakers by saying it supported a corporate tax rate hike and highlighted the need to improve U.S. infrastructure. (Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, owns the Washington Post.) Executives from Intel, Lyft, Ford, Toyota, and other leading companies have expressed positive views on Biden’s advance. Hospitals and other groups in the healthcare industry supported the plan’s $ 400 billion investment in home care.

Another reduction in the level of business opposition is that Biden’s tax hikes could be significantly weakened before the final legislation goes into effect. Senator Joe Manchin III (DW.Va.), whose vote Democrats need to pass the measure without Republican support, has insisted that the corporate tax rate only be raised from 21 percent to 25 percent instead of the government’s proposed 28 percent white House. Corporate America would oppose such a move but could likely “live with it,” as one lobbyist put it.

“An increase from 21 to 25 – this is where Manchin comes in – will not create mass hysteria, especially if many companies experienced an economic boom during the pandemic,” said Jefrey Pollock, founding partner and president of Global Strategy Group, a public relations and electoral office.

Republicans are confident that the tax hikes will remind corporate groups that Republicans are their natural allies. Lisa Spies, a GOP fundraiser, said she advises companies not to make jerky decisions because they might regret it. Spies said they needed to remember that Republicans would likely support more of the policies that help their bottom line – and they would need them to defend their preferred business positions.

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“After the January 6 riots, I told people why not wait and see how the new president goes about it and that should guide your donation?” She said. “You should just focus on the guidelines.”

For now, though, corporate groups are staying away from Republicans, even as leaders like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis set their priorities. Former Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Who faced fierce industrial opposition to the banking reform proposals he put forward under President Barack Obama, said American companies are increasingly concerned about the effects of populist law rather than left-wing liberal ones democratic establishment.

“The business community, responsible elements of the business world, has found that it is in their best interest to defuse angry populism,” said Frank. “You are not afraid of Joe Biden. Biden doesn’t say they’re bad people, and that’s a big part of it. But neither are they as afraid of what the Democrats are going to do. They are much more afraid of the Republicans. “