In 1814, First Lady Dolley Madison helped hide the White House’s famous portrait of George Washington from the British when they burned and sacked the capital. But if the current pack of brigands raiding DC has its way, by the time they’re done, that painting and every other piece of government property that isn’t nailed down will be stolen and put up for sale on eBay.
That’s because a smash-and-grab mob is running the government. If they continue the way they are, every agency, every social program, every benefit and every one of us not-rich-people will take it in the wallet as they rapaciously loot the system.
The tax reform plan is today’s Exhibit A. This is greed, plain and simple, toadying to the richest of the land who write the campaign checks. Simultaneously, Trump, his associates and Congress seem to be lining their own pockets with ill-gotten gains. And all the time trying to pretend otherwise to a public that by a margin of 2-to-1 already realizes that this so-called tax reform legislation is a total scam, a classic bait-and-switch.
On Saturday, Jim Tankersley noted in The New York Times that the package “leaves nearly every large tax break in place. It creates as many new preferences for special interests as it gets rid of. It will keep corporate accountants busy for years to come . . . [A]mbitions fell to the powerful forces of lobbying and the status quo.
“ . . . What emerged on Friday, in the final product agreed to by Republican members of a House-Senate conference committee, was a bill that layers new tax complexities upon businesses large and small, and which delivers a larger share of benefits to corporations and the rich than to the middle class.”
And yet on Sunday, Jeff Stein and Mike DeBonis wrote in The Washington Post that with straight faces, members of the GOP congressional leadership were arguing that the bill “is aimed primarily at helping the middle class, brushing aside nonpartisan analyses that show the bulk of the legislation’s benefits would go to the wealthy and to corporations.”
Here’s one of them, Texas Sen. John Cornyn on ABC’s This Week: “This will benefit hard-working American families, people in the lower income tax brackets, and everybody in every tax bracket will see a tax cut.”
Wow. So much smoke is being blown by Republicans you’d think the capital was sitting in the middle of the California wildfires. The tax code already is complicated and they’ve made their rewrite of existing law a hastily thrown together hodgepodge, an ill-informed and ill-conceived mess being rushed through to get a legislative win ahead of year’s end and to unload the gravy train of its goodies before the electoral whistle blows and we throw the rascals out onto the tracks.
There are tons of profitable dodges laced throughout this behemoth thousand-page bill—more than a trillion dollars’ worth. Changes to the estate tax, for example, lowering the top marginal tax rate and slashing the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent. Sen. Bernie Sanders reports that 15 of our largest corporations alone, including Apple, GE, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, will now receive “an additional $236 billion tax cut” on top of the $3.9 trillion in tax advantages they’ve received over the last three decades.
But take a look at this giveaway uncovered by our friend David Sirota at International Business Times (IBT) and his colleagues Alex Kotch, Andrew Perez and Josh Keefe. Over the weekend and on Monday, the investigative team reported in rapid succession that Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the only Republican member who had voted against the Senate version of the bill but who was now reversed himself, did so shortly after a provision was added that gives a tax break to real estate investors like himself, not to mention Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, their families and many others.
Corker then denied that this was why he had changed his vote, defending himself by saying he had not even read the bill he now was supporting (!), let alone known about the new language. He demanded that Utah’s Orrin Hatch, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, tell him how the favorable provision was added. Hatch said he himself had written it (the Center for Responsive Politics notes that since 1989, Hatch has received more than $1 million in campaign contributions from the real estate industry).
Subsequently, IBT reported that not only does Bob Corker’s chief of staff also stand to make out like a bandit from the real estate tax loophole, but so do 14 Republican senators (including Corker) who “hold financial interests in 26 income-generating real-estate partnerships—worth as much as $105 million in total. Those holdings together produced between $2.4 million and $14.1 million in rent and interest income in 2016, according to federal records.”
Our legislators are supposed to come to Washington to do good. Instead they do well, really well, raking in the dollars at the expense of you and me. Income inequality continues to mount, with the top 1 percent controlling some 40 percent of America’s wealth as benefits are stolen away from those desperately in need.
This tax bill is the Christmas gift that just keeps giving—but not to the millions of Americans who could really use some relief, including and especially the poor and working class who bought Donald Trump’s baloney about never being ignored again. They’ll be lucky to get lumps of “clean, beautiful coal” in their stockings.
Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship.
By Michael Winship
Posted on December 20, 2017 by Michael Winship