The Republican tax bill, to be voted on in the Senate as early as this week, rewards the wealthiest Americans while giving a sop to middle-class taxpayers and actively harming lower-income families.
The fate of the current tax bill is in the hands of a few Republican senators who in the past have shown they are not afraid to diverge from the party line. Arizona is lucky that both its representatives in the Senate are in that group.
We ask that Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake continue to stand by their principles and vote “no” on this tax bill.
The plan is the product of a partisan effort that is being rushed through Congress with little concern for doing what’s right. Far from the tax reform promised, it is a mad dash to give tax cuts to large corporations and the richest among us, based on the disproven theory that if those at the top make more, everyone will win. It disregards not only President Trump’s campaign promises to help the working class, it makes hypocrites of conservatives who until recently claimed to wage war against the federal deficit.
There is no denying that most taxpayers who take the standard deduction — about three-quarters of all middle-class families — would pay less under the Senate plan, which doubles the standard deduction to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. Families with children would also benefit as the child tax credit is doubled as well. Don’t get too excited, however, because these changes would expire within a decade in order to help pay for tax cuts for corporations and the extremely wealthy.
And while many households would owe less in taxes starting next year, about 40 percent of families that itemize — approximately 13 million in the middle class — would pay more right away, according to estimates by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. This is because the bill does away with several deductions, including those for state and local taxes.
By 2019, those making less than $30,000 a year would be worse off, mostly because they would receive less government aid for health care, according to the Congressional Budget Office. By 2021, those making less than $40,000 would see their taxes go up. Within a decade Americans earning less than $75,000 would owe more because both the doubled standard deduction and the increased child tax credit expire after 2025. Meanwhile, the tax cuts to corporations and the top 1 percent of earners are permanent.
Ending those middle-class tax cuts is vital to the claim that the bill represents only about $1.5 trillion in revenue cuts over the next decade. This matters because, under Senate parliamentary procedure, the GOP can push this tax plan through with only 50 votes because increasing the deficit by more than $1.5 trillion requires the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic filibuster.
It would be naïve, and it is cynically touted as fact by several Republicans, to think that the tax cuts would be allowed to expire after 2025. Most likely, they will be extended by Congress and the true cost of the tax bill will reach about $2 trillion.
Flake has commented on this fact, saying budget “gimmicks” are being used to keep the deficit increase under the $1.5 trillion limit. While he has yet to publicly commit one way or the other, it is impossible for the senator to claim being a fiscal conservative and still vote for the bill as-is.
For McCain, his reason for opposing the bill should be clear. Just as they did in the fight over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the Republican leadership has trampled regular order in the Senate, refusing to submit the bill to the kind of bipartisan scrutiny that any major piece of legislation ought to have and that McCain champions.
While the Republican leadership may need a win, it shouldn’t be done at the expense of the middle class. In keeping with their conservative principles, Sens. McCain and Flake should not reward a party that seems to be no longer theirs.