Saturday, January 13, 2018

Editorial: GOP Smash and Grab

It grates on us every time Donnie Trump is described as a populist. He talked a populist line during the presidential campaign, with promises such as “Under a Trump presidency, the American worker will finally have a president who will protect them and fight for them.” But his campaign promises were entirely unbelievable, and his first year in office have proven the skepticism was warranted.

He had a long record as a New York real estate developer and entrepreneur who had his clothing line made in China; imported Chinese steel to build his hotels; stiffed his subcontractors, making them sue him to get paid; and resisted unions at his properties. He had a reputation as a liar, demonstrated by PolitiFact’s running tally since 2011 that showed him telling the whole truth only about 4% of the time through November 2016. But Trump apparently attracted just enough suckers, possibly influenced by Russian hackers spreading fake news on the Internet, combined with voter suppression in states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, to surprise some of his closest aides, as well as his wife and possibly even himself with his upset victory over Hillary Clinton.

Lying Donnie conned his way into the White House by promising to fight for working people and protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, but after his inauguration he installed administrators whose job has been to dismantle every worker- or consumer-friendly regulation that President Barack Obama implemented.

Trump also installed a half-dozen current and former executives of Goldman Sachs to deliver the goods to the plutocrats, as usual, while he spends short days in the Oval Office, then retires to his bedroom at 6:30 p.m. for Big Macs, Filet-O-Fish and a chocolate milkshake.
We didn’t really need Michael Wolff’s explosive tell-all, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, to let us know Trump was in over his head and alarming even his closest advisers with his apparent descent into madness. But it confirmed rumors that have been leaking out of the White House for months.

Then, as the year was coming to a close, with the Great Misleader’s unpopularity stuck in the 30s and dragging down congressional Republicans, the window of opportunity to pass major legislation was closing. Wealthy donors threatened to withhold money from their dependent Republicans if the GOP didn’t furnish a massive tax break as a return on their investment. Republicans in Congress drafted a bill that would raise taxes on working families to pay for huge tax giveaways to billionaires and corporations, in the legislative equivalent of a smash-and-grab robbery.

The AFL-CIO labor federation noted the tax bill would rig tax rules in favor of big banks, hedge funds and Wall Street financial firms. The richest 1% of households would receive 83% of tax cuts, and the richest 0.1% would get an average tax cut of more than $148,000. The tax bill is full of complex tax gimmicks that would encourage tax dodging while enriching lawyers and accountants, and the Senate finally passed it on a 51-48 vote Dec. 19. The House then finally passed the bill 224-201 Dec. 20

The GOP scam offers job-killing tax breaks for outsourcing, as it lowers the US tax rate on offshore profits to zero, giving corporations an incentive to move American jobs offshore. Republicans also put a tariff on goods manufactured in storm-damaged Puerto Rico, which will harm efforts to rebuild industry in that forlorn American territory.

Republicans also signaled that once they’re done increasing the deficit with their wasteful tax boondoggle, they plan to use the deficit as an excuse to cut Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, giving another lie to Trump’s assurances that he would protect the safety net. The Republican budget, already signed by Trump, would cut Medicaid and Medicare by $1.5 trillion — the same price tag as the tax bill — and Republicans are proposing a $492 million cut in the Social Security Administration, reducing the agency’s staff so seniors will have a harder time getting access to benefits.

Republicans promised their plan would help the middle class with tax relief that will stimulate economic growth and higher wages — classic supply-side economic hogwash, which failed under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, George W. Bush in the early 2000s and in Kansas under Gov. Sam Brownback from 2012 until mid-2017, when Republican legislators finally joined Democrats to restore the taxes, over Brownback’s veto. (The entire Kansas congressional delegation still voted for the new tax scam, however.)

Although Republicans claim the tax scam would cut taxes for working families, at least in the first few years of the implementation, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office sees tax increases for millions of working people, as the average household making less than $75,000 would pay more in taxes by the year 2027. In all, 70 million households earning less than $100,000 eventually would pay more under the new law.

And any increase in take-home pay from the tax cuts likely will be offset with increases in health care costs, as the law also repealed parts of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which means health care premiums in the individual market will rise by 10% or more. The CBO estimated 13 million people would lose health insurance, and health experts say thousands of Americans could die every year from loss of coverage.

The reduced tax revenues will spur automatic cuts to Medicare and other programs to offset the reduction in revenue caused by the tax breaks under the 2010 Pay-As-You-Go law, unless Congress votes to waive the PAYGO rules — which would require Democratic support in the Senate, since 60 senators are needed for the waiver.

Republicans also encouraged state and local governments to cut spending on public education, infrastructure and public services working families depend upon, by limiting the state and local tax (SALT) deduction. However, a new backdoor school voucher program would give tax breaks for tuition at private schools. Republican leaders in Congress also plan to use the deficit they created as an excuse to cut federal funding for education and other essential services.

The American public has caught on to this scam. A CNN poll released Dec. 19 found only 33% of Americans favor the GOP tax bill, while 55% oppose it, making this the most unpopular bill in 30 years. A Gallup Poll released Jan. 8 showed Trump’s job approval stuck at 37%, while 58% disapproved and on generic congressional races Democrats were leading. 42.1% to 34.7% in an average of polls reported by HuffPost’s Pollster Jan. 2.

The corporate press — whose owners will rake in big bucks from the tax cuts — has rated this a great victory at last for Trump and his Republican Congress, and that might improve GOP popularity in months to come. But this plutocratic tax bill puts a target on the back of every Republican member of the House and the Senate who have enabled Lying Donnie as well as Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It makes it imperative that Democrats regain control of Congress in 2018 so they can block any more bad things from happening — including confirmation of the teabagger lawyers Trump is putting forward for lifetime appointments to judgeships. GOP committee heads also are helping Trump obstruct justice in the Russia probe.

It probably will take until 2021, after Dems regain control of the White House as well as, we hope, the House and Senate, that Democrats can repeal this dreadful tax bill — if necessary, by the same reconciliation process by which it was enacted. And Dems may profit from the lesson on how to pass bills without a 60-vote supermajority. Among other things, expansion of Medicare to cover everybody now appears to be within reach with a simple majority. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, Febuary 2, 2018

Blog | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links
About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2018 The Progressive PopulistPO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652

No comments:

Post a Comment