Paul Ryan tried to defend his plan to increase taxes on middle-class families. It did not go well.

Aaron Rupar

Aaron Rupar Reporter, ThinkProgress

Appearing on Fox & Friends on Thursday ahead of the House’s expected vote on the Republican tax bill, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was asked to justify why he’s pushing legislation that will raise taxes on millions of middle-class Americans. The speaker’s response did not go well.

Citing numbers Nancy Pelosi highlighted from a Center for American Progress analysis of Tax Policy Center Data, Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy asked Ryan: “Are 36 million Americans in the middle class gonna see a tax hike?”

Ryan started by saying “no,” but when he was pressed to explain further, things went off the rails.

“36 million middle-class taxpayers are not getting a tax cut– middle-class tax– are not getting a tax increase,” Ryan stammered, apparently confusing his talking points.

“Middle-income taxpayers are getting a– look, don’t, just go to, and by the way, let me just say it this way — if you’re a family, your first $12,000 today are tax free, under this plan, your first $24,000 are tax free, what that means is, nine out of 10 Americans will be able to fill out their taxes on a form the size of this postcard — that’s radical simplification,” he continued.

But doubling the standard deduction and allowing Americans to do their taxes on smaller pieces of paper doesn’t change the reality that the GOP plan will raise taxes on millions of middle-class Americans. That’s because the GOP plan eliminates the individual exemption and many other provisions that benefit middle-class Americans in order to finance deep corporate tax cuts. The provisions that do benefit the middle class are quickly phased out.

The analysis by the Center for American Progress (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent publication housed at the CAP Action Fund) isn’t an outlier. For example, according to the New York Times, the House version Ryan supports would result in tax increases for “about half of middle-class families” in 2026.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center’s data indicates that the House bill would raise taxes on a quarter of all households by 2027. Even next year, the bill would raise taxes on 3 million households with incomes between $48,600 and $86,100, with the average increase being more than $1,000.

Across the bottom four income quintiles, roughly 36 million households would see a tax increase by 2027. That’s the number Doocy referred to when he asked Ryan about tax increases under the GOP plan.


The Washington Post, summarizing the Tax Policy Center’s numbers, writes that “It isn’t just that there are many particular groups who stand to get huge tax increases — graduate studentsparents who adopt childrenpeople with large medical expenses — it’s also that they’re raising taxes on such broad swaths of the population.”

The Senate plan isn’t much better — according to an assessment by Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, that chamber’s version of the bill would increase taxes for nearly 14 million middle-class households. It also eventually phases out all individual tax cuts, while making corporate tax cuts permanent.

The Republican tax plan is particular bad for people living in blue states, which has led Republicans like Rep. Peter King (R-NY) to staunchly oppose it. Supporters like Ryan, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) have argued that trickle-down economics will benefit everyone, but when pressed upon why Americans should believe that after the Bush tax cuts failed, they’ve been unable to do so.