Jay Bookman

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

Opinion: '... bread crumbs luring the prey into the trap'

Thanks to the "tax cut" bill now being enacted by Washington Republicans, this is what the tax code will look like by 2027:

-- American households making $75,000 or less will see an INCREASE of their federal income taxes totaling $28.5 billion a year.

-- American households making $100,000 or more will see a DECREASE of their taxes totaling $23.5 billion a year.

The numbers are clear. The intent is clear. The proposal will impose a significant shift of after-tax income away from those already struggling in this economy and into the bank accounts of those who are already doing quite well.

These are not my numbers, by the way. These are not numbers generated by some "think tank" with an agenda. These are the official numbers generated by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the official, non-partisan agency created by and run by Congress itself. The analysts at the JCT have a model of the U.S. tax system; they alter the model to account for legislative changes in that system, and they report the numbers.

Here are some more numbers generated by the Joint Committee:

-- In 2019, the 90.2 million households making $50,000 or less will benefit from a combined total of $17.3 billion in tax cuts.

-- In 2019, the 572,000 American households reporting an income of more than $1 million a year will collect a total of  $36.5 billion in tax cuts, more than twice as much as those 90 million combined.

In short, the tax cuts for wealthy Americans and for corporations will be large and permanent, while tax cuts for the working-class and middle-class Americans are small and temporary, and in fact become tax increases over time. If you think of those temporary tax cuts as bread crumbs dropped on the ground to lure the prey into the trap, you probably have the right idea.

Now, the good news is that the American people seem to grasp this. Poll after poll show this bill to be highly unpopular. The most recent, released today by CNN, finds that 33 percent of Americans support the bill and 55 percent oppose it. Just 21 percent believe that their family will be better off if the bill passes, and when President Trump complains that the bill will raise his taxes, but that's a sacrifice that he's willing to make because that's how much he loves America, just 5 percent of Americans believe him.

So ask yourself: In a tough political environment, why do Republicans believe so intently that their best  and only hope of maintaining their grip on power is to pass a bill that by any measure is politically toxic?

My conclusion is that they fear their own donors more than they fear the American voter. And that's a helluva thing. Republican leadership believes that if they reward their donor class with this tax bill, that donor class will return the favor with billions of dollars in campaign cash that can be used to distract, delude and dazzle. To put it bluntly, they are betting their careers and power on the belief that the United States of America is no longer a democratic republic but effectively a plutocracy.¹

The test of that cynical theory will come on Nov. 6, 2018, some 324 days from now.

¹In one dispiriting example of why they might be right, the CNN poll reports just one demographic group in support of the tax bill. That would be white voters without a college degree, who support it by a narrow margin of 46/42 percent.

White voters who do have a college degree -- those most likely to benefit by it -- reject it by a margin of  31/62 percent, a two-to-one ratio.


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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.