If there was any doubt left about the complete moral bankruptcy of the GOP and its relentless quest to ease the burdens on the one percent at the expense of everyone else , the tax plan passed without a single hearing by the House of Representatives yesterday settles it once and for all.
The plan is a caricature of itself: a cartoonish mustachioed villain grifting cash from individuals and organizations and stacking it atop the sky-high moneypiles of the fabulously rich. (Remember: someone out there had enough cash on hand this week to pay half a billion dollars for a 25 x 19 inch oil canvas painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.)
Republicans claim that they want to help businesses and corporations. As a demonstration of this, part of their plan is to cut the corporate tax rate almost in half, from 35 to 20 percent.
This idea, on its own, is not without its merits: a competitive tax rate can entice corporations into doing their business here instead of overseas. Indeed, if this was the entirety of the plan, the Republicans’ case that their policies were motivated by a sincere desire to spur growth (as opposed to handing benefits to the people who need them least) would have been more convincing.
But the other components of the proposed law are where the plan — and the shameless politicians who devised it — show their true colors.
Of the other 4 trillion dollars in cuts, half will go to the top one percent.
Among these cuts are an elimination of the Alternative Minimum tax. This tax was instated to prevent wealthy individuals from nullifying their taxes through loopholes. Repealing the AMT is a “pro-loophole” move.
Another particularly revealing component of the GOP plan is the repeal of the estate tax. That Paul Ryan and others can look reporters in the eye and advocate cutting taxes for dead millionaires for the sake of “fairness” would be impressive if it weren’t so galling.
To offset the burgeoning American debt that will result from this reverse-Robin Hood style plan, Republicans have sniffed around for little pockets of money they can quietly seize from various victims.
American educational institutions have been a primary target. For instance, the plan currently eliminates tax exemptions on student loans. This move is almost laughable in its Grinch-like scurrilousness. Are Republicans seriously taking fifty billion dollars from students — already burdened by sizeable debt — and passing that on to the richest Americans? Yes, yes they are.
Another target are people on the coasts — particularly those in California and New York, who benefit from the state income tax deduction. In this, the plan is almost surgical in its targeting of individuals outside the Republican base.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Republicans have zapped the old Frankenstein back to life and are talking about repealing healthcare’s individual mandate to pay for further cuts.
Paul Ryan has clearly drunk his own Kool-Aid: to listen to him talk is to hear someone has bought into the twisted view that plan constitutes a step toward freedom, fairness, and growth. I have no doubt that he believes in the rectitude of his mission. This is all the more impressive given the unabashed ruthlessness at the heart of the plan itself. To convince oneself that this is good for the average American requires some Olympic level mental gymnastics.
In theory, tax reform isn’t such a bad idea. People shouldn’t have to wade through a labyrinth of paperwork to pay their debts. And a plan that enacts targeted cuts to businesses and corporations can be good for the economy.
But what the Republicans have presented isn’t tax reform. It’s highway robbery in broad daylight. Republicans believe they can get away with handing a big fat Christmas bonus to their donors as long as they plaster words like “growth” and “freedom” on the packaging.
And what’s worse: they might be right. Individual freedom and limited government, values within which Republicans couch their every policy, are central to the American ethos. Indeed, these tenets are so powerful that politicians can get people to vote against their own interests by framing policies in these terms. So without a lot of rabble-rousing from constituents, this thing might pass. And the smug one-percenters storing their money in the Cayman Islands will get to upgrade their yacht for this year’s Christmas party.
Democrats can do their part by coming to the negotiating table and being open to certain reforms. The best place to start is getting rid of the mortgage interest deduction, which disproportionately helps home-owners — i.e., richer Americans.
But we should start by getting mad — cause this thing’s bad.