It’s not enough to give money to rich people. Apparently, Republicans want to kick the poor and middle class in the face, too.
I used to think the Republican Party’s obsession with top-heavy tax cuts was about pleasing wealthy donors and maybe also fulfilling some misguided Randian fantasy. If the poor and middle class happened to be collateral damage, so be it.
But it’s starting to look like shafting the little guy has become a feature, not a bug, of the GOP’s budget-busting tax plan.
In years past, when Republicans wished to pass huge tax cuts for the wealthy, they at least offered a few goodies to so-called regular Americans. Take the George W. Bush tax cuts: They were also extremely weighted toward the rich, but some of the provisions helped the middle class and poor. The 2001 legislation made the Child Tax Credit partially refundable, for instance, which for the first time allowed many poor families to receive it.
More important, the Bush tax cuts didn’t actually raise taxes on any households, according to estimates from the Tax Policy Center. This time around, Republicans have taken a different approach. They’re offsetting their tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy by hiking them further down the income distribution.
Yes, it’s true that lower- and middle-income households would get a tax cut initially. But according to Congress’ own official nonpartisan scorekeepers, by 2027 the Senate tax bill would actually raise taxes on households making less than $75,000. That’s the case even if you strip out the controversial effects of repealing the individual mandate. No wonder this bill is less popular than any major change in federal tax policy since at least 1981.
But wait, it gets worse. Higher taxes aren’t the only way in which Republicans plan to punish the poor and middle class. They also plan to gut the government services these populations depend on.
This tax bill is merely a prelude to, or perhaps an excuse for, shredding the social safety net.
Despite all those fanciful promises about how tax cuts will pay for themselves, Republican politicians know their legislation will blow a major hole in the deficit. According to lawmakers’ own official scorekeepers, the Senate bill would cost $1 trillion over the coming decade, even with additional economic growth.
And in recent days and weeks, prominent Republicans have pledged to patch over this budget hole by cutting programs that millions of Americans need to get by.
At an event on Wednesday, for example, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., linked tax cuts to coming entitlement cuts.
“Many argue that you can’t cut taxes because it will drive up the deficit,” he said. “But we have to do two things. We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future.”
Income inequality is near record highs, and yet Republicans’ regressive tax and spending plans forge forward. It’s time for voters to ask their elected officials: How much upward distribution of wealth will ever be enough?