Students often leave term papers to the last minute, but even college freshmen would never submit as finished work an essay with changes illegibly scrawled along the side.
Republican senators hold themselves to a much lower standard. They voted in the early morning hours on Saturday to reorder large parts of the American economy on the basis of a bill that those freshmen would be ashamed of. It was a thrown-together reactionary mess forced through with little forethought and virtually no debate. Key, supposedly “moderate” Republican senators endorsed the massive piece of legislation even before they knew what was in it, and voted down a motion to put off a vote at least long enough so they might actually understand what they were doing. Legislating has routinely been compared with sausage-making, but this time, Republican leaders wanted to keep citizens from knowing what poisons they were injecting into this particular sausage.
When Congress did truly big things in the past—the Affordable Care Act, the major tax cuts of the Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush eras, the tax increases under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—there was serious discussion over an extended time.
Debate and careful negotiation over trade-offs in a genuinely bipartisan context were at the heart of the success of the last comprehensive tax reform in 1986. By contrast, the GOP's extravaganza this year is entirely partisan, full of breaks for favored interests and punishments for those the party regards as its political enemies. To call it “reform” is an affront to generations of good-government advocates in both parties.