Gentle Readers, it’s that time again. The Republican Party, which once produced our greatest president, has continued to dig its way through the concrete slab beneath the fallout shelter in its quest for the bottom. A tax bill has passed the House, with the vote of my Representative and maybe yours too, which will dramatically slash taxes for the extremely wealthy and corporations. Because they are using budget reconciliation to get that bill through the Senate without a filibuster, that means they need to write a bill that doesn’t add to the deficit over ten years. (Adding to the budget deficit within that time is allowed.) To make the math work, the GOP has decided that the rest of us should pay for it.
You may have heard that you will get a tax cut. Who ever told you that either told you on the deck of your yacht or wasn’t telling the truth:
By 2023, a key middle-class tax break expires. Many of the people facing tax hikes are solidly middle class ($40,000 to $75,000) or else in the “upper upper” middle class ($200,000 to $400,000), JCT found. A key savings for the middle class — the Family Flexibility Credit — goes away after 2022. The House bill also uses a low measure of inflation after 2022, meaning more and more people start to jump from the 12 percent tax bracket to the 25 percent bracket (which starts to kick in at $67,500 for heads of households).
That’s the House bill, but the Senate will be doing something similar and also repeal the ACA’s insurance mandate. You may know that as the pain that requires you to get insurance. It’s also the provision that gets enough of us into the risk pool that insurers can afford to take care of the sick and people with pre-existing conditions without demanding ruinous premiums from them. That may not sound just to you, and I will not defend the morality of for-profit health insurance, but it is how the system works. Insurers count on premiums from healthy people to keep them above water when someone gets very sick. Chronic illnesses, cancer, childbirth, and injuries can all make any of us extremely unappealing to the insurance industry unless we have a private pool made of solid gold. The estimated impact of removing the mandate is that thirteen million people would lose coverage. Some of those people would drop it voluntarily and take their chances, but many would not; the new rates would be too much for them to afford. This is a backdoor Obamacare repeal. And by the way, if you do get sick this bill removes your ability to deduct medical expenses from your taxes.
That’s cruel in itself. The bill also includes offenses against the historical profession and, for that matter, almost every profession. In the United States, becoming a professional usually requires a college degree to get your foot in the door. More than that, it tends to requires a graduate degree. Some disciplines have their own names for it, but most of these are Masters and Doctorates. Graduate school is ruinously expensive, much more so than ordinary university already is. Grad students who aren’t independently wealthy get by largely through the fact that universities ruthlessly exploit them in exchange for a pittance salary and waiving their tuition. The GOP’s bill will remove the deduction for that tuition waiver and tax it as income. Thus a person working to become a historian, or an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, almost any middle class or higher job, will be expected to pay taxes on an income two or three times what actually goes into their bank.
Gentle Readers, I’m friends with some people in grad school and others about to start it right now. None of them can afford that. They are your future historians and librarians. People with advanced degrees designed your car. They developed your medicine. They are essential to the survival of modern society and all the benefits it brings us. If you value what they contribute to the world and hope it continues, you can’t support this bill unless you also think that those roles should be open only to those of us lucky enough to be born fabulously wealthy.
There is some good news, though. If you’re a corporation you could deduct the cost of supplies you buy for your workers to use to make you money. To pay for that, among other things, the GOP will remove the ability of teachers to deduct money out of their own pockets that they spend on supplies for your kids. Virtually every teacher does this every year.
All in all, three-quarters of the cuts in this bill go to businesses and corporations. The extremely rich get the rest. In exchange for that, we are promised that money will rain from the heavens to make up for it. We’ve been promised that for every prior cut like this and none of them has ever paid for itself. This is the largest yet. If you believe them now and that this time will be different, I don’t know what to say.
If none of that moves you, then consider this: The House bill will knock a 1.4 trillion hole in the federal budget by design. That’s what it’s for. The plan is to create a massive deficit and then use it as an excuse to radically cut programs that people depend on for their very lives: Medicaid and Medicare top the list and would face immediate cuts to the tune of billions of dollars. This bill will kill people. It will devastate higher education. It will hurt teachers and children. And then the GOP will use it to come back around for more blood from the same people. It’s all being done with an almost total absence of committee hearings, chances for the minority to offer amendments, in haste and largely in secret just like ACA repeal.
This is sadism. I would call it inhuman, but I study people who do things like this to other people. Even the people at Forbes, not known for their bleeding heart liberalism or love of taxes, think this bill is madness. As these cuts will disproportionately harm those with the least, and we have ordered our society such that people who we don’t consider white tend to have the least, I consider this also a white supremacist piece of legislation. I cannot study what I do in good faith and let it pass entirely in silence.
Get in touch with your Senators, especially if they’re Republicans and doubly so if they’re Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, or John McCain, and let them know what you think about all that. You can get contact information for them here or use ResistBot’s automated system through Facebook Messenger or your smart phone. If all of this sounds great to you, then those systems also work the other way. I hope you agree with me that this is a fight worth having, but if not then we still have something like a democracy. You deserve to have your voice heard too. We are all Americans.