By Hugh Bowden
If President Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate President Mitch McConnell, and the Republicans in the House and Senate who follow their lead, succeed in passing the tax cut proposal now on the table, millions and millions of Americans will pay a big price. Day after day, week after week, Trump, Ryan and McConnell appear before the public and blatantly lie every time they assert that their proposal will put more money in the pockets of every middle class American. For those who trouble to look, there is massive convincing evidence that the Republican tax plan will further line the pockets of the most wealthy and put the nation even deeper in debt in the process. Meanwhile, many of us will wind up paying the price for this political chicanery.
The level of dishonesty spewing forth from the mouths of too many Republicans in Washington is shameful. With a handful of exceptions, the scores of Republicans in both the U.S. House and Senate have become a national disgrace. And our president (he doesn’t even deserve a small “p”) — whose core supporters somehow remain willing to accept and even applaud his ignorance, his bigotry and his narcissism — heaps greater disgrace upon the office he holds with every passing day.
Trump, Ryan and company consistently maintain that lowering the 35 percent corporate tax rate will give offshore businesses the incentive to return to the continental United States. They contend that businesses, flush with more cash, will use that money to increase wages and hire more workers. In actual fact, most American corporations pay taxes at a rate far below that 35 percent. Further, it’s ludicrous to project that most offshore businesses will walk away from the vastly lower labor costs they now enjoy in order to come back and pay the wages and benefits that American workers demand. As the stock market has continued climbing to record-high levels, American businesses already have been reaping massive financial benefits. But most of them have not seen fit to invest those benefits in significantly higher wages for employees.
As Edward Kleinbard, former chief of staff of the U.S. Congress Joint Committee on Taxation, observes, “Business tax reform really is an exercise in how we should tax capital income — that is, returns on investments. And because the rich have lots more capital than do you or I, the benefits of the multitrillion-dollar business tax cuts proposed by the Trump administration’s tax “framework” necessarily will be vacuumed up by the most affluent Americans. Business tax reform has only a modest connection to the economic future of working stiffs, and the small connection that does exist is a second-order effect.”
Republicans delight in the “trickle-down” theory of economics — that more money in the hands of the rich eventually will find its way to the rest of us. But it doesn’t work. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that the Republican tax plan will balloon the federal deficit by $2.6 trillion. Republicans would have us believe that the resulting business tax gifts from their plan will lead to faster economic growth that will make all of us better off, and offset the apparent cost of the tax framework to boot. But as Kleinbard points out, “Responsible economists agree that this is just not true, whether one looks to history (most recently, the state of Kansas) or theory. The idea that the growth fairy can be propitiated only through tax cuts is faith-based economics.”
What the Republicans most need is a tax cut gift to their deep-pocket supporters, who are becoming increasingly restive about their lack of success under the Trump administration. The Republicans don’t much care how they get it, as evidenced by their refusal — once again — to follow the normal congressional process in developing, considering and passing legislation. They’ve crafted this tax proposal behind closed doors, without benefit of public hearings and no involvement from Democrats in either House or Senate. They intend, if they can, to force it through to passage under the so-called “reconciliation” process, which bypasses the traditional congressional debate and prevents the possibility of a Democratic filibuster. If millions of us get shafted in the process, they couldn’t care less.
The day will come when sycophantic Republicans and all those Trumpists who still cling to the notion that Trump’s their savior wake up to find that they, too, are among the casualties left in the wake of a president who cannot see beyond the end of his ego. We can only hope that it won’t be too late.
Hugh Bowden is a retired journalist and lifelong political observer. He lives in Ellsworth.