By Ralph Nader
Have the Republican greed-hound toadies gone too far? How much are the American people going to take before they replace the reckless Republicans in the next election? Low and middle-income Americans are bracing for the likely passage of a Trump-supported tax bill that deviously redistributes even more of the people’s income to the richest one percent (including a big tax cut for Trump) and the unpatriotic giant corporations.
Greased through Congress with the support of Republican mega-donors, over the inept opposition of the Democrats who astonishingly offered no tax plan of their own, this tax legislation does exactly the opposite of what House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and their prevaricator-in-chief, Donald Trump, are declaring.
Namely, this utterly complex brew of greed and handouts for the super-rich gives a gut punch to the masses, including people making below $30,000. Far from a tax cut the Republicans are trying to Peddle to the people, the Senate bill is projected to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over ten years to pay for the huge tax cuts enriching the corporate plutocrats who are laughing all the way to the bank. Such unsustainable losses in revenue sets the stage for cutting Medicare, Medicaid and other critical services to vulnerable Americans, with Republicans using the ballooning deficit they created as their excuse.
Slashing and burning in every direction, this legislation endangers the financial security of regular Americans of every age, every occupation and, by ending many deductions for local sales and income taxes, hurting state and local budgets.
Ryan and McConnell undermined the integrity of the legislative process by banning public hearings on this tax legislation in the House and Senate. In doing so, they denied the American people, including honest tax experts, the opportunity to adequately examine these dangerous proposals, especially the huge giveaways to multinational corporations at the expense of working class families. No Congress has ever gone this far. If this shameless lack of transparency proves successful, Congressional Republicans will succeed in driving Capitol Hill further under the dictatorship of the oligarchs, using the people’s delegated power against them.
To make matters worse, Senate Republicans prevented their Democratic colleagues from even seeing clean portions of the bill until just before the final vote at 1:25 am on Saturday, December 2. When faced with such hyper-partisan foul play, the Democrats should have shut the Senate down with a sit-in until they were given a reasonable amount of time to read this raid on the regular taxpayers, before the final vote.
Here are some malicious items from the House and Senate bills:
1. The Senate bill widens the double standard of favoring corporations over individuals, with a top corporate tax rate of 20% compared to a highest tax rate of 38% for individuals. Such blatant corporate favoritism shows which “people” the Republican Congress truly represents. Chalk one up for corporate supremacy for further inequality.
2. The House bill retains business entertainment deductions for hard liquor but takes away deductions from teachers who use their own money to buy needed classroom materials for their students, along with taxing fellowships for graduate students.
3. The Senate bill repeals the individual mandate for buying health insurance, setting the stage for higher health insurance premiums and 13 million more people going without health insurance over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
4. The House bill repeals the medical expense deduction used by millions of ailing citizens. The Senate bill does not.
5. The House phases out the estate tax, while the Senate bill exempts more rich people from that tax, which only applied to less than 5000 estates a year, according to the Tax Policy Center. These measures were vigorously opposed by 400 very rich Americans, in a public letter to Congress and by another responsible organization called Patriotic Millionaires.
6. There is a new tax on university and college endowments and tax breaks for parents to send their elementary students to private schools. And this massive piece of legislation is full of escape hatches, such as credits, for preferred vested interests in commercial arenas. Cash register politics.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that beginning in 2021 taxpayers with incomes of only $10,000 to $30,000 will be worse off, paying nearly $6 billion more in taxes. The Committee also concluded that by 2027, taxes will go up for taxpayers with income below $75,000 by over $27 billion.
Increase a standard deduction here, get rid of an exemption there, cause the increase in deductibles for health insurance policies here, but decrease deductibles used by consumers there – this cruel deception produces a mind shattering complexity and bonanza for accountants and lawyers.
The last minute gifts to monied interests emerged as usual from the darkness at the last minute – what the New York Times called “Last-Minute Breaks for Developers, Banks and Oil Industry” plus tax breaks for offshore profits by the likes of Pfizer, Google and Apple, lower taxes for the top one percent, benefits for car dealers and other goodies for people dealing with speculative security derivatives on Wall Street.
The Republican leadership justifies everything they are doing to the powerless people back home by claiming the tax bill will increase wages, investment and economic growth. This trickery could spark the voters to say “enough” and send the Republican scoundrels packing.
Dozens of impartial experts laugh at the fanciful Republican predictions about the “benefits” of the tax bill, citing historical evidence, and the existing economic growth, enabled by low inflation and low interest rates.
Nothing was more embarrassing for Donald Trump and the Republicans than when Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic advisor, asked a business audience how many of them would increase jobs and wages due to what he called this “tax reform.” Almost nobody raised a hand.
The corporate bosses in the audience knew what the Republicans don’t want us to know. These big companies are already neck-deep in massive uninvested capital, so they’re wasting trillions of dollars on stock buybacks which don’t produced any jobs. They don’t need more tax breaks for any more capital.
It is time for a voter’s revolt!
Tell your members of Congress there is still time to reject the Republican attack on the working class. A shift of just two more votes in the senate (e.g. Senators McCain, Collins and Flake) will defeat the existing legislation.