It was, even by the standards of the Trump White House, a spectacularly bad news week for the administration’s signature legislative accomplishment: the so-called Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed into law with exclusively Republican votes in December 2017. In just four days last week, the Trump law was revealed to the American people to be precisely the scam that it’s always been.
If you took at face value the conservative messaging around the $2.3 trillion tax proposal, you might think that the economy was going to take off at rocket speed, and that those investments would lead to fatter wages for American workers.
Recently, House Republican leadership even coined a snappy new motto for members of the congressional majority to talk about how Americans’ lives had improved since Republican takeover of government: “Better Off Now.”
Wrong, wrong, and wrong again.
The week started off with a report from two economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco bursting the bubble of fanciful, overly optimistic predictions about the impact of the tax law on the economy. Confirming last year’s analysis from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the economists forecast that the law will grow the economy “well below” 1% of gross domestic product, and even as little as 0%. A 0% boost to our GDP — for legislation that will cost nearly $2 trillion. It’s a good thing we have no other pressing domestic priorities facing our country these days.
Midweek, we learned that Florida Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan, one of Congress’s wealthiest individuals and a member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, didn’t even wait for the tax proposal to clear the other chamber and make its way to the president’s desk before he spent at least part of his big payoff.
His vote must have been burning a hole in his pocket, because according to Buchanan’s own recent personal financial disclosure, he splashed out as much as $5 million on a new Ocean Alexander yacht on Nov. 16, 2017 — the exact same day he and 226 other Republicans voted for the tax bill.
And Buchanan wasn’t alone in lining his pockets from the very law he enthusiastically supported: research from the Center for American Progress Action Fund illustrates exactly how many members of Congress may have gifted themselves tax cuts worth tens of thousands or even millions of dollars by voting for the proposal.
Not a wealthy member of Congress? Too bad. More than half of all Americans will pay more in taxes by 2027 as a result of the tax law, according to the Tax Policy Center, while 83% of the tax breaks will go to the 1% by that same year.
Maybe the Members of Congress who voted for the tax bill should have spent less time shopping for yachts and more time listening to their constituents.
And the enthusiastic corporate press releases about one-time worker bonuses that littered the news cycles in the weeks after the tax bill passed? Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics late in the week made those pronouncements feel like a distant and cruel memory. Though the White House promised that the average family’s income would be $4,000 higher because of the tax bill, the BLS’s latest assessment shows that wages, accounting for inflation, are totally flat — and in fact have declined slightly for rank-and-file workers.
President Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Republicans in the House and the Senate jammed the tax bill through Congress in a few short weeks, without a single public hearing, all in order to dupe and deceive the country about the law’s true intent.
It was a con job of epic proportions — one that the American people will pay for in the years and decades to come.
Allison Preiss is the managing director of communications at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
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