Just in time for the season of giving, congressional Republicans appear to be on the verge of passing a tax bill that represents one of the most transparent money grabs for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, breaking a huge string of promises President Trump made on the campaign trail to “stick it to Wall Street” and give tax relief to “the middle class, who have been forgotten.”
If all you want for Christmas is your two front teeth, you’re in luck. That’s all most of us will get if the Senate’s remarkably named “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” is pushed through congressional reconciliation and into law.
And you don’t have to take my word for it. The bill turns out to be the most unpopular piece of legislation in 30 years. In a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, only 32 percent of Americans said they supported the legislation while 48 percent opposed it. A slight majority – 53 percent – said they believed the bill would not reduce their taxes and believed it would not help the economy.
Even some Republicans late last week acknowledged the gulf between GOP promises to cut middle-class taxes.
“Fundamentally, the bill has been mislabeled,” said South Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Sanford. “From a truth-in-advertising standpoint, it would have been a lot simpler if we just acknowledged reality on this bill, which is it’s fundamentally a corporate tax reduction and restructuring bill, period. I think they were particularly concerned about innuendo and what that might mean, so it was labeled as a middle-class tax cut.”
And that’s not all. Not only does the bill break big promises made to voters and enjoy an approval from only, at best, a third of Americans, nearly every subjective analysis of the bill predicts that it will add at least a whopping $1 trillion dollars to the national debt over the next 10 years. Yesterday, an analysis by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School estimated that the increase to debt would be $1.5 trillion.
Common sense would indicate that Republicans will pay for this at the polls in both 2018 and 2020. But common sense doesn’t fare too well in 2017. How could any group defend the need for corporate tax cuts at a time when the stock market is at record levels and one of the biggest stories of the last month was the Paradise Papers that revealed the massive amounts of money the wealthy and corporations were stashing in off-shore accounts to avoid taxes? Richard Harvey, a tax professor at Villanova University, told the Financial Times that leaving offshore profit tax breaks in place could save Apple – one of the world’s richest corporations – $47 billion.
It’s difficult to see the bill as anything more than malicious not only to working-class people but also to middle-class voters, many of whom help put Republican lawmakers in office. It does nothing to address the real financial burdens facing Americans – high health care costs, declining public schools and ever more expensive higher education. Why anyone would expect companies like Apple or Nike to do anything more than shovel tax savings into offshore accounts and executive bonuses is beyond me.
Will American wage earners, who have yet to see their share of earnings return to pre-2008 recession levels, catch on? Those poll numbers are promising, but it’s hard to imagine we’ll look up from fighting the culture wars long enough to realize we’re being swindled.