If the tax-cut bill headed for President Trump’s desk proves anything, it’s that Republicans are even worse than Democrats in passing major legislation. Whereas Democrats spent a year holding congressional hearings before passing (and without a single Republican vote) the flawed Affordable Care Act of 2010, Republicans spent only a fraction of that time passing (and without a single Democratic vote) their so-called “tax-reform bill.” They held virtually no public hearings on key details of the bill (though some Republicans dispute this) and made a complete mockery of Trump’s claim that this is all about benefiting the middle class — and that it won’t benefit the rich.
Hard truth: Tax cuts for the middle class in this bill are on a timer set to expire in eight years; more significant tax breaks for the wealthy are stamped “permanent.” Reason: To pass this bill by Senate rules with only Republican votes, Republicans could add only $1.5 trillion to the national debt over 10 years in cutting all these taxes. This meant someone’s tax cuts had to be temporary. Guess whose?
Yes, Republicans insist that a future Congress will extend middle-class tax cuts when the time comes. Quite likely. Yet this is also likely predicated on even further federal debt. Even optimistic economists such as the conservative Tax Foundation say this tax bill is unlikely to pay for itself entirely. That means Republicans running the White House and Congress better think twice about more debt. And increasing military funding, waging new wars and investing in long-needed infrastructure will likely mean more debt. Only this week, after passage of the GOP tax bill, some lawmakers were squabbling over more federal funding for the storm-ravaged Texas coast because such relief funding wasn’t paid for.
If you want evidence of how corrupt this thing appears, consider Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who suddenly decided that he wasn’t so concerned about adding billions to the national debt as he originally claimed and that he’d now vote for the tax bill — after a provision was added benefiting the real-estate industry of which he is a player. When the senator denied knowing this provision was in the tax bill, it became clear he had agreed to vote for a controversial bill he hadn’t read. Incidentally, reports indicate Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch slipped in the provision to benefit real-estate interests, apparently without Corker’s knowledge.
This newspaper has long pressed for comprehensive, bipartisan tax reform. We championed the Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction plan of 2010. We believe in sharply dropping corporate tax rates — but by cutting other tax breaks, not through deficit spending. The bill passed this week in haste, confusion and secrecy — and when the economy already is at full employment — doesn’t pass muster. It’s a poorly thought-out political gesture that will fool only those who can’t add or subtract, those who care about deficits and debt only when Democrats are in charge and those who place stock in dubious economic-growth theories. This bill not only proves Republicans are happy to add to the national debt when it suits their purposes, its elimination of the individual mandate for health insurance means Republicans now own at least some of the consequences, including the higher insurance premiums to come.