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Conning the middle class — the GOP strategy

Like most Republican officials, Wyoming’s congressional delegation has gone all-in for tax cuts as the way to boost the middle class and spur job growth.

I don’t mind if they risk their own bankrolls, but as someone on the low end of the middle class economic ladder, I don’t appreciate my future depending on such a monumental sham of a plan. I’ve seen this play before, and I know it doesn’t end in middle class relief as Rep. Liz Cheney and Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso claim.

No, it’s a tremendous giveaway to the mega-wealthy, pure and simple.

That a tax plan this bad is close to passing goes a long way to explain Congress’s 13 percent approval rating. That figure comes from Real Clear Politics, which builds a composite score from the most reliable polls in the country.

That’s a higher rating than the GOP-controlled Congress deserves, especially if the Republican tax plan, in any of its various forms, actually becomes law.

The failure of the “trickle down” economic theories of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush has been well established. Our delegation members, for all their faults, are too smart not to recognize that disastrous history. Why then are Enzi, Barrasso, Cheney and their Capitol Hill cronies bragging about all the money they expect wealthy individuals and corporations to invest in job creation?  

On the Senate floor on Nov. 8, Barrasso proclaimed, “Every dollar a family doesn’t have to send to Washington in taxes is a dollar that they can use for something better … It’s another dollar a small business can use to pay its workers more, or reinvest in the business and help to grow the economy in that community.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But we don’t have to go clear back to Reagan’s days in the White House to see it’s a pipedream. The state of Kansas is the most recent example of the economic ruin that follows huge tax cuts for the wealthy.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s “real live experiment” in Kansas crashed and burned earlier this year. He drastically cut the state’s income taxes citing the same flawed central fantasy that resulting economic growth will more than make-up for the lost revenue and services. Instead, the state has a $345 million budget deficit. The Kansas Supreme Court — much as Wyoming’s high court did in 1995 — has had to step in and demand the state invest more in education. Kansas legislators raided the state’s highway account to comply.

Meanwhile, the state’s credit rating was downgraded twice. Why does anyone believe that what happened to Kansas won’t be repeated nationally on a much larger scale?

The Congressional Budget Office’s scoring of the Senate’s tax cut estimates it will add nearly $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade. The CBO has some other dire forecasts for the U.S. economy.

The nonpartisan agency said eliminating the federal mandate to buy health insurance will throw 13 million people off the rolls. Under President Obama the number of Americans with health insurance climbed by 20 million. President Trump, it’s clear, is intent on destroying Obama’s legacy no matter how detrimental that is to the poor and middle class.

The CBO said automatic spending cuts that kick in as a result of Congress’ “pay as you go” rule could cut Medicare’s budget by as much as $25 billion in 2018. This runs totally counter to Trump’s promise to not make any Medicare cuts.

Also in tatters is the president’s promise of lower health insurance premiums. The CBO said the rates are expected to go up 10 percent each year after the mandate is repealed.

Many Republican lawmakers seem to have no idea what is in their own bill. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) publicly argued with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) last week, with Hatch claiming the Senate’s bill doesn’t touch Medicaid.

“Where do you think the $300 billion [in savings] is coming from?” McCaskill asked. “Is there a fairy that’s dropping it on the Senate?” She explained to the sputtering Hatch that the money Republicans are spending on tax cuts for the wealthy “is coming out of Medicaid and subsidies to people who make less than $50,000.”

“The United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world,” Enzi said in a statement. “But we can make America a more inviting place to invest, do business and create jobs by lowering our high tax for businesses here at home.”

While he’s correct that the U.S. has a high corporate tax rate on paper, ThinkProgress points out Americans “actually pay incredibly low taxes due to the ever-proliferating loopholes, credits and deductions in the tax code and the use of overseas tax havens.”

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett said the notion our nation has high corporate tax rates is a myth. “Corporate taxes are not strangling American competitiveness,” Buffett said. I think the “Oracle of Omaha” probably knows more about this issue than Enzi, even if the senator was an accountant.

Of all the misinformation and downright lies Republicans have spewed about their proposal, the grand prize prevaricator is Trump. He’s claimed he will see very little money from the tax reductions. In reality, economists have estimated Trump and his family stand to gain up to $1 billion. Where’s the outrage?

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The GOP tax plan would permanently slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center determined half the benefits will go to the top 1 percent of wage earners by 2027. Meanwhile, when temporary tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses expire in 2025, only 40 percent of federal taxpayers will be left with a smaller IRS bill. Twenty-two percent would pay more and the rest would see little change in their tax rates. This is the savior of the middle class?

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has a great summary of the potential damage. He said the plan “would do incalculable harm to tens of millions of working families, our kids, the sick, the elderly and the poor. … It’s the Robin Hood principle in reverse. It takes from those in need and gives to those who are already living in incredible opulence.”

Three Republican senators could kill this horrible plan, but there’s no guarantee any will come through for the country. It won’t happen unless Democrats attack the bill as aggressively and effectively as they did the GOP’s attempt to repeal Obamacare.

After the House passed its version Cheney told the Casper Star-Tribune, “Congress must seize this historic opportunity to provide tax relief for Wyoming families and job creators and send comprehensive tax reform legislation to President Trump for his signature.” Go ahead and seize the day, Liz, and let’s see what happens.

I’m trying to understand why Republicans insist if they don’t pass tax cuts by the end of the year it will lead to the party losing control of Congress in 2018. Steamrolling such dangerously flawed legislation just so Trump might get one so-called accomplishment to hang his hat on doesn’t make a lick of sense. The risk is too high and the damage to American taxpayers too great.

Who do Republicans think they’re going to blame when the middle class finds out it’s been conned? Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton? Congressional Democrats? No, Trump and his party own this stink bomb, and they deserve every election loss in their future.

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About the Author

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Kerry Drake is a veteran Wyoming journalist, and a contributor to WyoHistory.org. He also moderates the WyPols blog. He has more than 30 years experience at the Wyoming Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune as a reporter, editor and editorial writer. He lives in Casper.

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6 Responses to Conning the middle class — the GOP strategy

  1. Vicki Lindner December 4, 2017 at 4:59 pm #

    I hate the tax plan and everything Republicans do or think about doing, but I have to say that I wonder if some Medicare costs are ill advised. Like if you have an electrocardiogram in one doctor’s office, and then go to a different doctor, he will want to take his own electrocardiogram. Does that make good financial sense? And then there are the $100,000 bone marrow transplants–a last ditch cancer treatment–which very seldom works, and people can die just from the after effects of the procedure. (like a friend’s husband did.) I’m sure there are other examples of reasons of medical procedures, tests, and treatments that any insurance should deny. Already Medicare won’t pay for an annual blood test unless you have symptoms that indicate one is necessary, and a gynecology exam is every two years not every one. I mean, how long should someone over 65 be on government funded kidney dialysis? But I still don’t think the rich and the corporations, some of which have already promised big payouts to investors or have said they’ll use the savings to buy back their own stock, should be the ones to profit from these restrictions on government funded health care. And the trickle down effect? Sounds lovely, like watering a dried up meadow, but it’s NONSENSE invented for the gullible, who know nothing about economics,, as Kerry has explained.

    Denver, Colorado

  2. M.Krall December 2, 2017 at 1:24 pm #

    Here are a couple of links:

    Corporate tax rates and economic growth since 1947


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economic_Policy_Institute

    A couple of things I’ve come across in my life I’ve found to be valid:

    * As a thing is good for business does not necessarily mean it is, by definition, good for people. As a thing is good for people, it is, by definition, good for everyone.

    * There are only two things a country needs to focus on to ensure every other aspect of life works well… Education and Healthcare. (As education at all levels and of all types becomes easily available, and as access to broad based, comprehensive healthcare becomes universal.)

    Every country having followed that idea has made great and consistent gains across the board.

    Lander, Wyoming

  3. Steve Robertson November 29, 2017 at 11:21 am #

    Government Trickle Down offers the same conning effects. It just chooses different winning.

    Bondurant, Wyoming

  4. JIM W PHILLIPS November 28, 2017 at 7:10 pm #

    Remember, the rich will also get to leave their vast wealth to their progeny sans any taxes also due to this bill.

    Newcastle, Wyoming

  5. Linda Anderson November 28, 2017 at 12:08 pm #

    Apparently Republicans are well aware that money buys elections so they think they are buying their ability to hold on to their seats by giving so generously now to the wealthy. They are very busy trying to limit access to the polls as well, hoping that the people who are hurt by this disastrous welfare for the wealthy bill will be disenfranchised in 2018. They could bee right. Or people could stand up and not allow this to succeed, by protesting now and by voting later for better representation.

    Chugwater, Wyoming

  6. Dan Neal November 28, 2017 at 8:56 am #

    As a recipient of Medicare insurance, which I paid for, along with my Social Security insurance, over a long career as a wage earner, I expect Congress to honor this contractural commitment. Cutting billions from Medicare and Medicaid will send many Americans to the poor house … or the grave.

    Casper, Wyoming

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