Donald Trump built his entire career on lies. The myth of Trump the legendary businessman is just that – a myth. Everyone knows that and the evidence to support that contention is so voluminous that documenting it is its own cottage industry.
Similarly, Trump’s campaign was built entirely on far-fetched promises the character of which was so nebulous as to make it virtually impossible for anyone to say definitively if he had or hadn’t kept them – at least in the near-term.
The problem for Trump and now for the GOP is that intermingled with the bombast and delusions of grandeur were some actual concrete proposals that could only be construed one way. For instance, you cannot say you “repealed and replaced” Obamacare when you did neither. Similarly, you can’t say you cut taxes when you simply didn’t.
Trump hasn’t given up entirely on the Obamacare crusade. Indeed, he’s now resorted to deliberately undermining the nation’s insurance system just so he can have some claim to not giving up on the push to destroy his predecessor’s legacy on healthcare. In the same vein, the individual mandate debate has now found itself thrown in with the tax overhaul.
But the bottom line is that “repeal and replace” didn’t work and so now, Trump and the GOP are behind the eight ball. If they don’t push this tax plan through by the end of the year, well then they will have failed to log any major legislative accomplishments in 2018, a decidedly bad situation to be in ahead of midterms and a testament to the idea that far from being God’s gift to dealmaking, Trump couldn’t “deal” his way out of a wet paper bag.
But as Paul Krugman wrote a couple of days ago, Republicans might have already thrown in the towel in the wake of recent electoral setbacks and the fast-motion train wreck in Alabama. Desperation has effectively set Republicans free. Here’s Krugman:
I’d suggest many Republicans now see themselves and/or their party in such dire straits that they’re no longer even trying to improve their future electoral position; instead, it’s all about grabbing as much for their big donors while they still can. Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose; in the GOP’s case, that means the freedom to be the party of, by, and for oligarchs they always wanted to be.
Right, and the tax plan is a manifestation of that. Over and over again, economists and nonpartisan analysis have shown that this tax plan is an unmitigated disaster. Consider this from David Leonhardt for the New York Times:
The actual bill that the House passed last week – and the modestly different plan the Senate is considering – is a dreadful piece of policy. It would cause the deficit to soar and, as a result, probably reduce economic growth. It would also raise taxes for millions of middle-class families.
“The G.O.P.,” Henry Olsen, a conservative policy expert, recently said, “really wants to do nothing other than cut taxes for businesspeople and the top bracket based on what can only be called religious devotion to supply-side theory.”
Once Republican leaders filled their plan with tax cuts for the wealthy, they didn’t have much money left for the middle class. In the Senate, Republicans were so desperate to find money that this past week they released a new version of the bill that made virtually all of the middle-class tax cuts temporary. They expire before the bill’s final year, 2027.
An assortment of middle-class tax increases – again, to help cover the cost of the tax cuts for the wealthy – last for the full life of the Senate bill. As a result, it ends up being a tax increase on households making less than $75,000, according to the only rigorous analysis so far, by the Senate’s Joint Committee on Taxation. For families making somewhat more than $75,000, the tax cut is modest and likely temporary, given the deficit. The plan, says Martin Sullivan, chief economist at Tax Analysts, a highly regarded research group, has “stunningly meager tax benefits for middle class.”
In short, the GOP and Trump (assuming Trump actually understands any of this which is a possibly dubious assumption to make) are lying to you. Here’s the Associated Press documenting the winners and losers from the Senate proposal:
- Wealthy individuals and their heirs win big. The hottest class-warfare debate around the tax overhaul legislation involves the inheritance tax on multimillion-dollar estates. Democrats wave the legislation’s targeting of the tax as a red flag in the face of Republicans, as proof that they’re out to benefit wealthy donors. The House bill initially doubles the limits – to $11 million for individuals and $22 million for couples – on how much money in the estate can be exempted from the inheritance tax, then repeals it entirely after 2023. The Senate version also doubles the limits but doesn’t repeal the tax. Then there’s the alternative minimum tax, a levy aimed at ensuring that higher-earning people pay at least some tax. It disappears in both bills.
- And the House measure cuts tax rates for many of the millions of “pass-through” businesses big and small – including partnerships and specially organized corporations – whose profits are taxed at the owners’ personal income rate. That’s potential cha-ching for Trump’s far-flung property empire and the holdings of his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner. The Senate bill lets pass-through owners deduct some of the earnings and then pay at their personal income rate on the remainder.
- Corporations win all around, with a tax rate slashed from 35 percent to 20 percent in both bills – though they’d have to wait a year for it under the Senate measure. Trump and the administration view it as an untouchable centerpiece of the legislation.
- U.S. oil companies with foreign operations would pay reduced taxes under the Senate bill on their income from sales of oil and natural gas abroad.
- Beer, wine and liquor producers would reap tax reductions under the Senate measure.
- Companies that provide management services like maintenance for aircraft get an updated win. The Senate bill clarifies that under current law, the management companies would be exempt from paying taxes on payments they receive from owners of private jets as well as from commercial airlines. That was a request from Ohio Sens. Rob Portman, a Republican, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, whose state is home to NetJets, a big aircraft management company.
- An estimated 13 million Americans could lose health insurance coverage under the Senate bill, which would repeal the “Obamacare” requirement that everyone in the U.S. have health insurance. The projection comes from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Eliminating the fines is expected to mean fewer people would obtain federally subsidized health policies.
- People living in high-tax states would be hit by repeal of federal deductions for state and local taxes under the Senate bill, and partial repeal under the House measure. That result of a compromise allows the deduction for up to $10,000 in property taxes.
- Many families making less than $30,000 a year would face tax increases starting in 2021 under the Senate bill, according to Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. By 2027, families earning less than $75,000 would see their tax bills rise while those making more would enjoy reductions, the analysts find. The individual income-tax reductions in the Senate bill would end in 2026.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is fucking egregious. Just read those bolded bits again one right after another. It’s the exact opposite of what Trump and the GOP are claiming it is.
They have the numbers and they are simply asking you this: “who you gonna believe, me or these lyin’ numbers?”
And you know what? It won’t matter. Because if large swaths of the U.S. electorate can be duped into thinking a narcissistic billionaire is just the man for the job when it comes to taking on billionaires and restoring some bygone era of American Middle Class prosperity, well then the chances of them actually reading and comprehending the details of this bill are slim to none.
So those voters will bleed. They’ll bleed money while GOP donors and people like Trump get richer, they’ll bleed jobs as we learn yet again that “trickle down” never works, and they’ll bleed literally when 13 million of them lose their health insurance.
Here you go America – this is what “draining the swamp” looks like…