Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: America, you’re being cheated


Last December, as President Trump and congressional Republicans celebrated passage of massive corporate tax cuts, U.S. corporate profits after taxes already stood at record highs, having almost quadrupled over the previous 20 years. But according to Republicans, corporate America needed and deserved more, more, ever more and more. So they got it.

Likewise, when those tax cuts were signed into law, wealthy Americans were already collecting a greater share of national income than at any time in roughly 130 years; the tax cuts were intentionally designed to put additional billions of dollars into their bank accounts, their stock portfolios, their real estate holdings, their mansions and yachts.

However, as the GOP was quick to point out, other Americans also enjoyed a taste of the goodies. As House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted out, forever cementing his status as a man close to the people:

“A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week ... she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year.”

Unfortunately, that extra $1.50 a week for the school secretary has apparently done serious, serious damage to the nation’s financial situation. When Trump took office, the nation’s annual deficit for fiscal 2018 was projected to be $487 billion. Instead -- under a GOP House, GOP Senate and GOP White House  -- it has soared to $779 billion. That’s in large part because revenue collected through corporate income taxes has fallen by almost a third, while revenue from individual taxes -- the taxes that you and I pay, that the likes of Jared Kushner do not pay -- has increased slightly. 

Of course, Republicans would never admit the true cause of these soaring deficits. Short of putting them into a Saudi embassy with someone armed with a bone saw, they would never ever admit that this huge hole was blown into our nation’s finances by the very tax cuts that they have lauded as their primary accomplishment of the last two years.

Instead, in the words of Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, "This fiscal picture is a blunt warning to Congress of the dire consequences of irresponsible and unnecessary spending.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was even more specific. He called the rising deficit “very disturbing,” but dismissed tax cuts as a potential cause. Instead, he explained this week, “the real driver(s) of the debt, by any objective standard,” are programs such as Medicaid, Social Security and Medicare, the programs that provide health care and a degree of income security to hundreds of millions of Americans.

In fact, McConnell said, “I think it would be safe to say that the single biggest disappointment of my time in Congress has been our failure to address the entitlement issue.” 

So there you have it. We are supposedly the richest, most prosperous country on the planet, yet somehow we can’t afford health care for our people. We can finance massive tax cuts to benefit corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent, those who fund GOP political campaigns with the crumbs off their tables, but income security for our seniors is “irresponsible and unnecessary spending.”

"If we can't sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work," McConnell said back in December, referring to the tax cuts. On that point, I think he’s right. I think those who create massive deficits through tax cuts, then use those deficits to try to gut basic, essential social programs, ought to be forced by voters into another line of work, just as he says, and the midterms are the time to do it.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.