The Trouble with the Tax Bill
Tax “reform” is the hill Republicans are willing to die on, apparently. Fair enough, because they have nothing else to show for their stint in power – no wall, no Muslim ban, no Obamacare repeal, nothing. They know they have to pass this bill or risk losing their majority in 2018. But this tax reform bill is one of the most irresponsible, opaque, and dangerous pieces of legislation that the greedy GOP gremlins have managed to piece together since Trump became president a year ago. Taxes are not my area of expertise, but in the past few weeks I have been gathering enough information (specifically from the Congressional Budget Office) and reading enough articles from both left and right to conclude that this is a bad bill for Americans, and here’s why:
- The Senate bill would repeal the individual mandate, a rule from Obamacare that requires most Americans to purchase health insurance. Of course, people don’t like being told what to do or what to buy, but without this mandate, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 13 million people will lose coverage and premiums will skyrocket. Obviously this move is popular with the GOP because repealing the individual mandate would save $300 billion – that must sound great to the donors, corporations, and rich individuals propping up the Republican party. This is an ideological difference, really, because the National Review (a conservative outlet) calls the individual mandate “deeply offensive to the American idea of individual liberty.” If only they felt that a lack of health care coverage was also deeply offensive to America, or that many of those who would choose to buy healthcare cannot access decent coverage without government assistance.
- Higher education comes with an especially exorbitant price tag in the US (something which drove my own decision to pursue my master’s degree abroad), and with this bill, it’s about to get even worse. Back in July, the Pew Research Center observed that “a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58%) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country.” It’s been clear for months now that higher education is an enemy of the GOP because educated citizens are smart, dangerous citizens; the Wall Street Journal reported that this tax bill would “end a program that forgives loan balances for borrowers who work for government agencies and many non-profits after they’ve made 10 years of payments” and would also reduce the benefits of the one thing that makes student loan payments manageable – income-based repayment programs. The bill would eliminate a provision that forgives part of students’ debt after they have made payments for 20-25 years. It is truly insane that this could ever be popular with anyone anywhere, but that’s where we are.
- (I don’t really want to freak people out any more than absolutely necessary, but the House bill included a provision that makes tuition waivers, upon which many higher education students are dependent, counted as income and therefore subjected to income taxes. This isn’t in the Senate bill, but if the Senate bill passes, it could become part of the final bill.)
- Republicans constantly claim to be fiscally conservative and are always extremely concerned with the growing deficit. Funny, then, that this bill would add $1.4 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years, according to the CBO. Good work, budget hawks!
- Brian Beutler of (the admittedly-partisan) Crooked Media wrote a scathing, brilliant takedown of the tax bill. Every word is on point, but my favourite part is when he describes the Republicans as “piled away into the getaway car wearing their robber masks” – just like they created their healthcare bills in shushed secrecy without any accountability, if Republicans were actually trying to lower tax rates for everyone, they wouldn’t be rushing this bill through the House and the Senate. But this is what they need to do in order to create the illusion that they have their shit together.
The main focus of this tax bill is cutting corporate taxes permanently to please powerful, wealthy, conservative donors. Representative Chris Collins of New York even said so himself. In order to do so, the bill targets the most vulnerable among us – graduate students with no full-time jobs who depend on stipends and tax-free tuition; poor people who will suffer greatly without health insurance and have been told that they don’t actually need it, especially if the government tells them they need it; and the middle class, particularly those earning between $30,000 – $70,000 would see tax increases by 2027.
The bill isn’t yet in its final form, with negotiations and compromises between the House’s bill and the Senate’s bill still required (if it passes this week) and loose ends to tie up. But as with all other legislation this administration has produced, it’s a scary reminder that this is the state of our union; these are the actual policy goals of the people in power. We should be calling our senators off the hook because if the past months of constant activism have given us any sliver of hope, it’s proof that political pressure works. We must keep the pressure on our political representatives to remind them of whose interests they were elected to serve, and we must not give into the idea that this is the new normal and that we just have to deal with it.
What can you do?
- Put pressure on your senators to vote no by calling 202-224-3121. This website provides scripts for both Democrats and Republicans - even if your senator has said he/she will vote no on the bill, it’s important to keep pressure on to make sure they know we are watching.
- Donate to organizations like Indivisible and Flippable which are dedicated to spreading truth and turning states blue in 2018.
- Get out there and canvas for Democratic candidates for 2018. It’s not too early to start dedicating time, money, and energy to electing Democrats to the House and Senate!
Photo courtesy of M.L. Rio, with permission.