The Republican tax reform plan being railroaded through Congress might sound complicated, but it’s really very simple.

They want to give about $5 trillion in tax cuts to the richest individuals, families and corporations, which they propose to offset by eliminating about $3 trillion in tax deductions that are currently enjoyed by both the wealthy and not-so-wealthy alike.

That adds about $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion to the deficit, which they would “pay for” by limiting the growth of Medicare and Medicaid over the next 10 years.

There is some variation on details between the versions proposed by the White House, the House Republicans and the Senate Republicans, but the outline is basically the same. They all aim to put more money into the hands of people who already have the most money, hoping that some of it might be put to use in ways that would benefit the rest of us.

It’s supply side economic theory, the same song Republicans have been singing for 40 years, the one that says tax cuts for the rich always unleash growth. The only thing that’s different now is the four decades of evidence to show it won’t work.

Responsible Republicans need to stand up and say this is not the way to reform our tax code. Middle-class Maine families will not benefit from such a blatant giveaway to people who have already benefited so much.

We need Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin to slow down this process and demand tax policies that address the real problems Maine families face, such as the escalating costs of health care, child care and higher education, which are made worse by stagnant wages and insecure retirements.

Unfortunately, so far, that’s not what we’ve seen.

TAX CUTS FOR THE 1 PERCENT

Poliquin was first to come out with a statement that sounded a populist note.

“I support maintaining a progressive tax code, and therefore, I support maintaining the current top rate for million dollar-plus earners,” Poliquin said Nov. 2. But he is silent about tax rates for the other top 1 percenters, who report annual income after deductions between $465,000 and $999,999 a year.

That’s significant when you consider how well those people have done compared to the rest of the population.

According to census data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute, there was 3.7 percent real growth in income nationally between 2009 and 2013, the years just after the Great Recession. During the five-year period, the top 1 percent of earners saw their incomes increase by 17 percent while the other 99 percent saw an increase in pay of less than 1 percent. Of all the country’s new income during those years, the top 1 percent took home 85 percent, leaving the other 99 percent to divide the rest.

But with the exception of those earning $1 million or more a year, Poliquin is on board for a top 1 percent tax cut. “Maine people should know a large percentage of federal taxes are currently paid by top earners,” Poliquin observed, as if he were expecting the other 99 percent to show their gratitude.

COLLINS’ POSITION

Collins has been less vocal in her support. She made the same pledge as Poliquin about million-dollar earners, and is equally silent about the other 1 percenters.

She opposes eliminating the estate tax, which affects only about 5,000 families a year nationwide, who currently are taxed on the portion of their inheritance that exceeds $5.49 million. But she says she would consider raising the amount of estate value that is excluded from the tax.

More disturbing, however, was Collins’ joint appearance in Biddeford on Friday with Ivanka Trump.

She was here to plug provisions in the Republican plan that are supposed to help the middle class, like a $1,600 tax credit to pay for child care that costs an average of $9,360 a year in Maine.

But no amount of cheery talk could undo the meeting’s terrible symbolism. Trump was in Maine to sell an economic policy that would help a very wealthy family like hers but would further disadvantage people who are struggling. Collins should not have lent her hard-won credibility to this publicity stunt.

The main reason the Republican tax reform plans look so complicated is that they are so unpopular they could never make it through a truly open process.

Both the House and Senate bills have been written to avoid bipartisan negotiations by using reconciliation rules to pass the Senate with a simple majority vote.

As we saw in the health care debate, this scenario gives Collins a lot of power to stop a bad bill, and she should use it again.

Maine families deserve real help from Washington, not just the crumbs that fall from the tables of the 1 percent.

It’s as simple as that.