A historic tax heist

Editorial board of the New York Times

With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning (December 1), the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost. The approval of this looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days.

The bill is expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, a debt that will be paid by the poor and middle class in future tax increases and spending cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Its modest tax cuts for the middle class disappear after eight years. And up to 13 million people stand to lose their health insurance because the bill makes a big change to the Affordable Care Act.

Yet Republicans somehow found a way to give a giant and permanent tax cut to corporations like Apple, General Electric and Goldman Sachs, saving those businesses tens of billions of dollars.

Because the Senate was rewriting its bill till the last minute, only the dealmakers themselves knew what the chamber voted on. There will, no doubt, be many unpleasant surprises as both houses work to pass final legislation for President Trump to sign.

The votes for the bill by Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona were particularly disheartening. Ms. Collins, who helped sink an effort to effectively repeal the A.C.A. in September, blithely voted for a tax bill that will leave a gaping hole in that law by repealing its requirement that most people have insurance or pay a penalty. She traded away her vote for an inadequate deduction for property taxes and empty promises from Mr. Trump and the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that they would help shore up the A.C.A., which they have repeatedly tried to sabotage. Mr. McCain, who previously voted against tax cuts in the Bush era because they were heavily tilted in favor of the rich rather than the middle class, seemed unconcerned that this bill was even worse in that regard. Then there is Mr. Flake, who has spoken powerfully against Mr. Trump and who is not seeking re-election. He folded on the basis of vague assurances about protecting the Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.

Republicans offered one fantasy after another to make the case for their budget-busting tax cuts. For example, the White House has said that cutting the corporate tax to 20 percent from 35 percent will lead to a boom in investment and wages—an argument disputed by most credible economists. Almost all of those extra profits will enrich senior executives and shareholders, experts say. This week, The Times reported that despite the repeated claims of the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, his department never produced an analysis that backs up the administration’s assertion that the tax cuts would pay for themselves. It is not hard to see why. The Joint Committee on Taxation, the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and other experts say that the bill would not come close to paying for itself.

For his part, Mr. Trump has repeatedly asserted with a straight face that the tax bill would hurt him. In fact, it will give him and his family a windfall. That’s because the Senate bill will provide a generous tax break for income that people earn through limited liability corporations, partnerships and other so-called pass-through businesses that do not pay taxes before passing on profits to owners. Under the Senate bill, the president will be able to claim a 23 percent deduction on profits he earns through his more than 500 pass-through businesses.

You can expect the lies to become even more brazen as Republicans seek to defend this terrible bill. But no amount of prevarication can change the fact that Congress and Mr. Trump are giving a giant gift to their donors and sticking the rest of the country with the tab.


This editorial was published by the editorial board of The New York Times on 2 December 2017. The editorial board is composed of 16 journalists with wide-ranging areas of expertise whose primary responsibility is to write The Times's editorials, which represent the voice of the board, its editor and the publisher. The board is part of The Times’s editorial department, operated separately from newsroom.  Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTOpinion).

Joseph Stiglitz: Trump tax plan to worsen inequality --

Paul Krugman: 'budget deficits are going to soar ... probably by even more than the official scorekeepers say, because the legislation creates so many new loopholes. And offsetting those deficits will require going after the true big-ticket programs, namely Medicare and Social Security.'

Robert Reich: 'For years, Republicans have been selling tax cuts by lying that they spur growth, which trickles down to average Americans. For just as long, Democrats have been selling fairness, but without explaining why a fairer economy is also more productive and prosperous. It’s time for Democrats to make the case. It has the virtue of being true.'

Joshua Holland: 'They know a backlash is coming, and they’re making the most of the power they have while they still can.'

Elizabeth Drew: 'Much of America’s capital has entered a state of near-panic. In recent days, President Donald Trump has been acting more bizarrely than ever, and the question raised in the mind of politicians and civilians alike, though rarely spoken aloud, has been: What can be done with this man?'