People are jumping with joy because the federal tax credit for electric vehicles and certain incentives for wind and solar power have not been eliminated by the so-called tax reform bill Republicans are ramrodding through Congress. But beware; the good news is far outweighed by the bad. American taxpayers will be hammered by this legislation. Here is a sampling of criticism about the bill from Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg, and Robert Reich.
In an interview with The Guardian, Sanders said, “What this is all about is nothing more than the Republican party very generously rewarding their wealthy campaign contributors.” It is based on the “right wing extremist ideology of the Koch brothers. You can read it in what they were saying 40 years ago. What they want is an oligarchic form of society in which government plays virtually no role in public education, healthcare or addressing the needs of middle-class and working families.”
According to Sanders, the Koch philosophy basically says, “You are on your own. You are 80 years old and you have cancer — good luck to you. Government is not there for you.” That is made crystal clear by the despicable Paul Ryan, whose political balloon has been filled with Koch brother hot air ever since he got into politics. He has already said publicly that next year he intends to lead the charge to reduce or eliminate basic social safety net programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Sanders says, “after running up a $1.4 trillion deficit over (the next) 10 years, they are going to offset that deficit by making massive cuts to social security, Medicare, and Medicaid. That is clearly the intention.”
Robert Reich, the Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, and a perennial thorn in the side of Republicans, published a refutation of the three benefits Republicans say will result from the tax bill. He says cutting the corporate tax rate won’t make American companies more competitive, won’t create any more jobs, and won’t “trickle down” to ordinary citizens. All it will do is make the rich richer and increase their stranglehold on the levers of political power.
“At a time when the richest 1% already have 40% of all the wealth in the country, it’s immoral to give them even more — especially when financed partly by 13 million low-income Americans who will lose their health coverage as a result of this tax plan (according to the Congressional Budget Office), and by subsequent cuts in safety-net programs necessitated by increasing the deficit by $1.5 trillion,” Reich explains.
Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, and founder of the Bloomberg financial empire, is #8 on the list of America’s wealthiest people. He has written a scathing editorial that calls the Republican tax bill a “Trillion Dollar Blunder.” He writes, “CEOs aren’t waiting on a tax cut to ‘jump-start the economy’ — a favorite phrase of politicians who have never run a company — or to hand out raises. It’s pure fantasy to think that the tax bill will lead to significantly higher wages and growth, as Republicans have promised. Had Congress actually listened to executives, or economists who study these issues carefully, it might have realized that.
“The largest economic challenges we face include a skills crisis that our public schools are not addressing, crumbling infrastructure that imperils our global competitiveness, wage stagnation coupled with growing wealth inequality, and rising deficits that will worsen as more baby boomers retire. The tax bill does nothing to address these challenges. In fact, it makes each of them worse.
“EDUCATION: The bill, by limiting the deduction for state and local taxes, will make it harder for the localities to raise money for education. The burden will fall heaviest on cities with poor students, making it harder for millions of children to escape from poverty — and leaving more and more businesses with fewer qualified job applicants.
“INFRASTRUCTURE: Restricting state and local tax deductions will also mean less local investment for infrastructure, and by raising deficits, the bill will constrain federal infrastructure spending. Our airports, railways and roads are in desperate need of modernization, and our energy grids are vulnerable and inefficient. Yet spending on those and other needs, which acts as a catalyst for private investment, will become more difficult.
“INEQUALITY: If Congress wanted to raise real wages and reward work, there is a simple and proven way to do it: expand the earned income tax credit. Instead, it seems to believe that lower corporate tax rates will magically lead to higher wages, which fundamentally misunderstands how labor markets work.
“In addition, by eliminating the requirement that individuals buy health insurance, many young and healthy people will drop out of the marketplace, causing health insurance premiums to rise for everyone else. This is nothing more than a backdoor tax increase on health care for millions of middle-class families that will leave them with less disposable income for savings, investment and spending.
“DEFICITS: The bill’s cost — $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion — makes it more difficult for taxpayers to afford Medicare and Social Security for the baby boom generation, which is now hitting retirement. Republicans didn’t grapple with those costs. Instead, they kicked the can down the road. Ignoring the bill’s price tag, or pretending we needn’t worry about deficits, is like ignoring climate change or pretending we needn’t worry about its effects. I’ll say one thing for Republicans in Congress: They’re consistent.”
The lie at the heart of the Republican tax bill is made manifest by its most egregious provisions. One item Sanders finds especially abhorrent provides special treatment for income earned by a small number of hedge fund managers. “We believe the provision will apply to probably fewer than 10, maybe even as few as three, hedge fund managers that will result in some $600 million in tax breaks over 10 years.”
A last-minute addition to the bill — a provision that was not contained in the measures passed by either the House or the Senate but got added during the reconciliation process — will personally benefit real estate developers like Donald Trump and Jared Kushner, according to Think Progress. The special provisions can be found on page 561 of the more than 1,000 page long tax bill. Think about that for a minute. A tax break that directly benefits a sitting president and his family gets added behind closed doors with no public debate or scrutiny in the middle of the night. Can you say, “corruption,” boys and girls?
You can hear the language of the Koch brothers echoing all through the halls of Congress, as theoretically rational people stare straight into the cameras and intone the same messages over and over again: People who get sick deserve to be punished for not leading healthier lifestyles. It’s not up to government to protect us from bad choices. People are poor because they are lazy and shiftless souls who won’t lift a finger to help themselves. They are so besotted with government handouts they have lost the innate ability to fend for themselves.
These are echoes of themes that have been running through the Republican party since the days of Ronald Reagan, who spread the lie about “welfare queens” driving “welfare Cadillacs.” Yet all the time, the powers-that-be have been gorging themselves at the public trough. The new tax bill is not tax reform. It is welfare for the wealthy and a slap in the face to every working American. It will further enrich a privileged few at the expense of the many.
There will be comments from some who don’t see the connection between a tax bill and clean technology. The answer is, the same forces that are shaping this abomination are the same people behind the campaign to discredit climate science. Among other things, this legislation ladles out even more subsidies for fossil fuels and opens up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to fracking and oil drilling. If you don’t see the connection, you aren’t paying attention. It’s long past time for you to wake up and see the rising tide of corruption that threatens to consume all Americans.
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