As the Trumpocalypse lumbers forward, its latest atrocity, the Republican/Trump tax scam is attracting lots of horrified commentary. Find below a few highlights from some of the more interesting takes on the issue:
Economist and New York Times opinion writer, Paul Krugman, takes his literary cue from the season:
It’s that time of year again. Some of us will get nice gifts, while others will get lumps of coal.
But the rules have changed a bit this time, at least as far as the federal government is concerned. The St. Nick you knew is on vacation, possibly permanently. In his place we have Republican Tax-Cut Santa, who has different priorities.
You see, the new guy doesn’t care whether you’re naughty or nice. In fact, he’ll actually reward you if you’re naughty in the right ways. But mainly he cares whether you’re rich, especially if your wealth comes from property (preferably inherited property), not hard work. In that case, you get a really big gift. If you’re an ordinary working family, not so much — and eventually you get that lump.
David Rothkopf in The Daily Beast makes the case that: “Donald Trump Just Pulled off the Greatest Long Con in History.” He outlines his case in the first paragraphs:
Bernie Madoff must be sitting in prison thinking to himself, “Schmuck, that’s how it is done!”
That’s because the con just pulled off by Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and very nearly every Republican on Capitol Hill would have every great fraudster in American history from Ponzi to that tubby guy behind the Backstreet Boys marveling at its scope, boldness, and brazen criminality.
But before we give these scoundrels too much credit, we need to recognize just how much of their con was, as they say in show biz, “sampled” from other scammers. These have included everything from the bait-and-switch (promise a “middle-class tax cut” on the campaign trail and deliver one for the rich and powerful) to the long con (play on the weaknesses of the sucker, take him through the twists and turns of meaningless distractions that go nowhere, then grab his cash). Another Madoff favorite that was regularly used was “cooking the books.” Estimates of benefits to the middle class were overstated, while the impact on the deficit was understated dramatically.
Sam Ross-Bown writes in The American Prospect about one of the several nasty little surprises hidden in the poorly-vetted, rushed legislation – in this case a provision that endangers our drinking water:
In the landmark tax reform overhaul, congressional Republicans axed a critical financing tool that cities and towns have used to upgrade aging drinking water infrastructure: advance refunding bonds. These bonds allowed municipalities to refinance outstanding debt at lower interest rates. The loss of this tool—combined with historically low levels of federal enforcement and support for basic drinking water standards—could deepen the nation’s ongoing lead contamination crisis by making it harder for local governments to fund much-needed infrastructure improvements that would curb lead contaminants in drinking water.
At Mother Jones, Edwin Rios lists some middle-class friendly alternative ways to spend the $1.5 trillion dollars that Trump’s tax bill gave to the wealthy and corporations: Free college; erase student debt, universal public preschool, comprehensive infrastructure repair, universal housing vouchers for eligible families making less than 30 percent of an area’s median income; CHIP funding for 107 years; global warming initiatives and disaster relief; new space stations. Read the details and weep for what could have been.
WaPos Paul Waldman analyzed the reality behind the announcement that five corporations were raising wages and/or handing out bonuses because of the tax cut. What he concluded is that there less there than meets the eye:
… Not only does it feel as though companies are attempting to curry favor with Trump as if he ere a Third World potentate, at least one of these companies – I’m lookig at you, AT&T – is embroiled in a contentious legal dispute with the U.S. government.
What’s more, these steps, while welcome, are hardly going to counter the vast benefits the wealthy will receive from this bill, much of which will come at the expense of the those less well-off. They also don’t address whether workers more broadly will actually receive a sizable jump in wages, or a sizable share of the benefits of the massive economic growth — if indeed that even happens — that Republicans claim these tax cuts will engender.
Beyond all this, while a bonus is a nice gesture — and a raise is, of course, a good thing — there was certainly nothing from stopping any company from taking such actions sooner. Overall, corporate balance sheets are flush, and stock prices are at record highs — and have been for some time. As Ben White noted at Politico, “These announcements are nice and good on all the companies for doling out some extra cash. But they are relatively small chunks of the vast piles of cash sitting around corporate balance sheets.”
Many commentators wrote about the politics of the bill. An example of the latter is John Judis’ argument in TPM (“The Politics of the Republican Tax Bill: A dissenting View”) that the GOP will have managed to insulate itself from negative fallout generated by the massive transfer of wealth upwards that this bill represents because of the small, temporary cuts that some in the middle class will receive.
TPM Editor Josh Marshall posted a careful response to Judis, concluding that:
The tax cut bill is unpopular first because its authors are very unpopular. It is also unpopular because of the disorderly and chaotic process in which it was constructed in which it was quite clear that the overriding goal was tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. A lot of the maneuvering was to find ways not to raise taxes too much on ordinary people so that it became impossible to pass. The overriding goal, however, was clear. So it is both the popular mood, the unpopularity of the President and the substance of the bill itself that is driving its low numbers. Recent evidence suggests that the relatively marginal short term benefits to middle income earners are not ones that will change anyone’s opinions. They’ll mainly confirm opinions of people already committed to supporting the President….
The Political Animal’s Martin Longman responds to Judis by arguing that Democrats should be optimistic that Americans won’t be misdirected by GOP tax cut smoke and mirrors:
Given that Donald Trump was just elected president, taking the cynical view of the American electorate might seem like an appropriate default position, but I don’t think it’s fair or supportable to say that Americans’ simply don’t care about wealth inequality. I think a lot of people care about it, and I believe it can be politically activated with or without demagoguery. During the Great Recession, Americans were being taxed at an historically low rate, but it proved easy to mobilize an impassioned political reaction based on the idea that we’re “Taxed Enough Already.” Complaints about fair treatment can still gain traction, and it’s even easier when the underlying grievance happens to be true. Hammering the Republicans for favoring the wealthy and corporations is always at least somewhat effective, but I think it will be especially effective in this cycle.
There’s lots more information and discussion out there. No reason for anyone to be bamboozled by statements like this (from MO Rep. Ann Wagner’s (R-2) email newsletter):
When you sent me to Congress in 2012, I promised Missourians that I would find a way for families to keep more of their hard-earned money. Yesterday, the House and Senate delivered on that promise. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cuts taxes for middle income Missourians, allows American businesses to flourish, and paves the way for an increase of good-paying jobs. In fact, employees across Missouri and the country are already starting to see the benefits of the tax reform only hours after its passage, just in time for Christmas!