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As GOP Tax Plan Faces Senate Vote, Critics Say Bill Would Give Hundreds of Billions to Top 1 Percent

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Republicans are rapidly pushing forward with their efforts to pass President Donald Trump’s tax plan, which would overhaul the tax code in order to shower billions of dollars in tax cuts upon the richest Americans, including Trump’s own family. On Tuesday, the Senate Budget Committee passed the Senate version of the plan, with all Republicans on the panel voting for it and all Democrats voting against. Protesters disrupted the committee hearing Tuesday with chants of “Kill the bill, don’t kill us.” The plan will now go to the full Senate for a vote as early as Thursday. The Senate bill slashes the corporate tax rate and gives further tax cuts to wealthy business owners. It would also repeal a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, the requirement that most Americans have health insurance. Experts say revoking this provision, known as the individual mandate, would cause the cost of health insurance to skyrocket. We speak with Heather McGhee, president of Demos and Demos Action.

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Video squareStoryOct 23, 2017Trump’s Proposed Tax Overhaul Would Give Billions to Trump & Cabinet While Sparking Global “Tax War”
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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, on to the tax bill.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Republicans are rapidly pushing forward with their efforts to pass President Trump’s tax plan, which would overhaul the code in order to shower billions of dollars in tax cuts upon the richest Americans, including President Trump’s own family. On Tuesday, the Senate Budget Committee passed a Senate version of the plan, with all Republicans on the panel voting for it and all Democrats voting against. Protesters disrupted the committee hearing Tuesday with chants of “Kill the bill, don’t kill us.” Several were arrested. The plan will now go to the full Senate for a vote as early as Thursday.

The Senate bill slashes the corporate tax rate and gives further tax cuts to wealthy business owners. It would also repeal a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, the requirement that most Americans have health insurance. Experts say recalling this provision, known as the individual mandate, would cause the cost of health insurance to skyrocket.

The vote came after President Trump met with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill. He later told reporters he thinks the Republican tax bill will be, quote, “very popular.”

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re in a very good position in terms of the meeting we just had over at the Capitol with the Republican senators. It was outstanding. I think we have tremendous support. I was just informed by Mitch that we had a unanimous vote, from the Republican side at least. We had a unanimous vote on the tax bill. And it goes now the next step, and I think we’re going to get it passed. I think it’s going to pass, and it’s going to be very popular. It’s going to have lots of adjustments before it ends. But the end result would be a very, very massive—the largest in the history of our country—tax cut.

AMY GOODMAN: Democrats have had nearly no say in crafting the tax plan. House and Senate Majority Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer boycotted a meeting on Tuesday with Trump and Republican lawmakers, after he appeared to refuse to negotiate on key issues like spending, healthcare and immigration. Trump then held a news conference between two empty chairs with signs for Pelosi and Schumer on them.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think they want tax increases, and we want major tax decreases. So they decided not to show up. They’ve been all talk, and they’ve been no action. And now it’s even worse. Now it’s not even talk. So they’re not showing up for the meeting.

AMY GOODMAN: The image of President Trump surrounded by two empty chairs has appeared to backfire against him and has become a meme. Meanwhile, the House Democratic Leader Pelosi responded on Twitter saying, “@realDonaldTrump now knows that his verbal abuse will no longer be tolerated. His empty chair photo opp showed he’s more interested in stunts than in addressing the needs of the American people. Poor Ryan and McConnell relegated to props. Sad!” she tweeted.

This comes as a House version of the tax bill, passed earlier this month, would cut the corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 20 percent. As the year winds down with no legislative achievements since Trump became president, Republicans say they’re determined to pass tax reform by the end of the year.

Well, for more, we’re joined by Heather McGhee, president of Demos and Demos Action.

Heather, wow! A lot has happened in these last 24 hours. Talk about this tax bill that was passed and what the House is also considering.

HEATHER McGHEE: This tax bill is an outrage. At a time of record economic inequality, when half of American families couldn’t pay a $400 bill without going into debt or selling something, this bill would give hundreds of billions of dollars to the wealthiest 1 percent. It is a sop, not actually to the Republican base, because this is an enormously unpopular bill. If there’s one silver lining, it’s that the American people are not falling for the Republican tax scam. They understand that it’s just going to the wealthy and big corporations that they think are already running away with the store. And so, you’ve got a bill that is historically unpopular. The only bill in polling history that’s been more unpopular has actually been the Republican repeal of Obamacare.

And yet, they, on the Hill, think that this is a political imperative. Why is that? And they’ve been willing to say it—because their donors, some of the wealthiest people in this country, are saying, “We will turn off the spigot if you do not pass this tax cut for me, my businesses and my heirs.”

It’s disgusting. It’s immoral. It’s going to make it harder for working-class and middle-class families to buy a house, to pay down student debt and go to college. And the CBO recently said that it’s going to raise taxes. This massive Trump tax cut is going to cut his taxes and those of his children, but it’s going to raise taxes on people making under $30,000 almost immediately.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And even those folks in the middle class who supposedly will get tax cuts, those tax cuts, many of them, will expire after 10 years, whereas those tax cuts for the wealthy and for the corporations are permanent tax cuts?

HEATHER McGHEE: That’s right. That’s exactly right, Juan. So, within 10 years, families making under $75,000 a year will definitely see a tax increase. We’re also very aware people who live in states where their state and local governments actually invest in their communities and have higher property and income taxes—mostly blue states—are going to not be able to deduct as much of that tax—as much of that tax that they pay, and so it is going to put pressure on state and local governments to cut taxes, as well.

We are seeing a hollowing out of our national treasure. We are seeing nearly $2 trillion added to the deficit and the debt. And honestly, the big concern for us on that is, think about all of the missed opportunities, the way that we could be investing in our infrastructure, to stop poisoning our families, the way we could be transitioning to a clean energy economy, creating free college, affordable childcare and healthcare. We could really do so much with these funds, and instead we are giving it to corporations and people who have never been richer and never been more profitable.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Senator Bernie Sanders at a hearing, talking about the tax bill’s impact on the federal budget.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: How many hours have I sat here, and have you sat there, and we’ve seen all the charts and all the discussions about how terrible the deficit is, what it means leaving this burden to our kids and our grandchildren? We heard all of that rhetoric year after year. And now we have a bill that raises the deficit by $1.4 trillion.

AMY GOODMAN: So, $1.4 trillion, it raises the deficit. And then talk about the individual mandate and affordable healthcare, what this is going to mean for that.

HEATHER McGHEE: Well, those of us who follow this closely never believed the Republican sort of chicken-hawking about the deficit. We knew it was always about an ideological desire to shrink government so that they could cut taxes. And so, what they’re doing is cutting taxes and shrinking government, and it doesn’t matter.

The ruse that they’re using is saying that it will—that these tax cuts will grow the economy and therefore somehow pay for themselves. Forty-one out of 42 economists, of all ideological stripes, surveyed by the University of Chicago, said that this massive tax cut would lead to no substantial economic growth. And CEOs are agreeing. They’re saying, “If you give us a windfall without there being any change in the underlying dynamics, without more customers coming into our shops, because working and middle-class people just don’t have enough money to be fueling this consumer economy, we’re just going to give that money to our investors and our shareholders.”

So it’s going to be yet another aspect of the windfall. It’s not going to create middle-class good jobs. Workers just don’t have the bargaining power to make that kind of a windfall to corporations translate into their pockets.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about two other aspects of this tax reform. One is where the Senate version of the bill is actually worse in some ways than the House, because there were some Republican senators who were concerned about the so-called pass-throughs. If you could talk about that?

HEATHER McGHEE: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: These LLCs that are basically used by lawyers and real estate people, and that they want a better cut—

HEATHER McGHEE: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —for those who use LLCs, or limited liability companies. Could you talk about that?

HEATHER McGHEE: That’s right. So, law firms, even hedge funds, lots of wealthy people who have business income that they get from, you know, various endeavors—

AMY GOODMAN: Trump has like 500 of them.

HEATHER McGHEE: And the entire Trump Organization, the vast majority of it itself, is a pass-through. So that money comes in not into a separate business, but just comes straight through as personal income, and today is taxed at personal income. And because the vast majority of these people, these business owners, are in the 1 percent, they have the highest marginal tax rate. This would change it so that it would be that lower corporate tax rate that they’re slashing. And so, it would be a huge windfall to a lot of the people who constitute the Republican political donor base.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what has happened to—a pet peeve of mine has been what I call the amnesty for tax-dodging corporations.

HEATHER McGHEE: Oh, yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This repatriation of money from overseas, where, basically, the plan that both many Democrats as well as Republicans supported was to retroactively lower the taxes that they haven’t already paid, so that they can repatriate them to the United States. What’s happened to that in the bill?

HEATHER McGHEE: That’s exactly—you put it exactly as it is. And then they’re going to have a zero percent tax rate on foreign profits. So, a lot of analysts are saying this will encourage even more companies to create operations overseas. So it would actually potentially make the job situation that we have even worse.

AMY GOODMAN: And the individual mandate?

HEATHER McGHEE: And, you know, Republicans are obsessed with undoing President Obama’s legacy. And so they want to go back at the incredibly unpopular attempt to repeal affordable healthcare in this country. And so they want to get rid of the individual mandate. The effect of that will be to make health insurance premiums go up for everyone.

And if you look at the different just bread-and-butter issues that American families are struggling with—student debt, being able to afford a home, childcare, healthcare—all of those things could go up considerably for working- and middle-class families, while rich families get even more money for just opening an envelope from their tax return.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you mentioned the effect on students.

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