GOP Takes a(n Expensive) Bow

Terry H. Schwadron

Dec. 20, 2017

The tax bill has passed. Oh, and by the way, the Republicans in Congress pretty much killed Obamacare too.

Republican donors celebrated, the wealthiest Americans cheered, the stock market danced in reaction, the president took credit — again — along with the Republican congressional leaders, and average Americans looked forward to spending that major tax break on, say, a television, before the tax cuts disappear in a mist of corporate benefit.

The tax bill has passed. All but 12 Republicans, who come from New York, New Jersey and California, voted for it and no Democrats.

There was no significant debate allowed, there were financial crumbs or real money given to particular members of Congress, and there was a whole lot of overheated, self-congratulating oration about how this bill would help middle-class Americans when every analysis shows that at least 85% of the benefit is to a miniscule percentage of the wealthiest class.

Oh, and it turns out that in all the rushing around, the House actually triggered a technical glitch and will be required to vote on the bill again tomorrow with what passed as a Senate version.

The language being thrown around was disgustingly sweet and tremendously obsequious in describing the most criticized contents of the bill. “Today we are giving the people of this country their money back. This is their money, after all,” House Speaker Paul W. Ryan (R-Wisc.) said.

Indeed, the Republican tax bill would lower taxes for 95 percent of Americans next year, according to the Tax Policy Center. But it provides less relief to individuals eight years out, when many of the tax benefits for individuals will expire while corporate tax cuts are forever.

“This is a good day for workers. This is a great day for growth,” said an exuberant Ryan. “This is going to increase wages. This is going to increase take-home pay.”

Indeed, we can wonder aloud about the gap between promises and reality. Most analyses and in all recent tax cuts, there is little evidence that the promises that American companies will decide to bring jobs back from overseas will come true. There is little evidence to show that companies, already flush with profits, will pass along tax savings to workers in the form of increased wages; indeed, even as the stock market has increase value by upwards of 25 percent, wages have remained stagnant across the country.

What is not up for debate is that the tax bill will increase the federal debt. There was no new news, because there was no debate, about whether planned growth will actually cover the costs of added debt. Paying for debt has become a major part of federal spending, with nothing tangible to show for it.

“This (tax bill) is the greatest example of a promise being made and a promise being kept,” Ryan told reporters. He dismissed reports about polling that shows the bill is widely unpopular. He insisted that “results are going to make this popular.”

The sprawling tax bill would affect nearly every American business and household, restructuring a complicated system of deductions, shrinking some and expanding others. As most news articles explained, the standard deduction, taken by many middle- and low-income households, would double, and a child tax credit would be expanded as well. Other provisions taxpayers use to reduce their bills, including a deduction on interest paid on new home mortgages and a provision allowing Americans to deduct what they pay in state and local taxes, would shrink. The bill would also reduce the estate tax, a levy on inheritances paid only by the wealthiest estates. It would kill an Affordable Care Act requirement requiring nearly all Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty. The change will leave an estimated 13 million without insurance as soon as next year.

The tax bill has passed. And we’re going to pay for it in our taxes and by losing social services for our sick and seniors.

It fulfills a campaign promise by Donald Trump — sort of. Trump promised a bill aimed at middle-class taxpayers, which is why he and Republicans still present it that way. Indeed, while there is an actual legislative win here, Trump’s first victory, it is one that will hurt millions of taxpayers, including me.

It is a bill that sets us up for more income inequality, and for more legislative attacks on food stamps, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare to pay for the corporate tax cuts.

You’ll excuse me if I pass on the Republicans’ celebration.


Journalist, musician, community volunteer