Monday, April 23 , 2018, 9:05 pm | Fair 54º


Jamie Stiehm: Donald Trump’s Speeding Tax Bill Throws Fairness Off the Tracks

You know the speeding train that tragically jumped the track over an interstate on its inaugural run in Washington last week? Three people were killed and almost 100 were injured. In a way, we are all riders on that train, to echo a Bruce Springsteen song.

The Amtrak derailment is the perfect operative metaphor for what just happened in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital. A tax break bill was passed in the Senate, 51-48, on a staunchly party-line vote. Since every single Republican senator present voted for it, and almost all the House Republicans, the deed bears their fingerprints.

Congressional Republicans were desperate to get one major bill signed into law, goaded by a greedy president who may stand to personally profit.

President Donald Trump was the reckless engineer driving the speeding tax bill train to put it under America’s Christmas tree. It’s a sham of a bill to redistribute more wealth to the wealthy, and to slash the tax rate for businesses and corporations. Regressive is a fancy word for it.

But now we know starkly what Republicans elected to serve the nation’s greater good truly love: deep tax cuts. They are brazen as can be, starting with the mogul who landed in the White House, though he lost the popular vote.

Dropping his populist pitch, Trump couldn’t help himself and bragged that cutting the corporate rate to 21 percent from 35 percent is “probably the biggest factor” in the runaway legislation that went speeding into the night.

That alone blows a hole in the Treasury and benefits untold numbers of rich donors in the Trump Republican base. The foremost Koch brothers are likely planning a square dance somewhere in Kansas.

Is this high-class heist “ransom” money, as Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., declared? Yes, not only for 2016 donors, but for 2020 donors as well.

Polls show the American public is wary of the bill, as several individual tax cuts are only temporary. As it becomes clear as day that Obamacare is quietly bleeding in the fine print, they may resent that, too. (This was Trump’s fondest wish, which earlier failed.) 

Because the individual mandate is now repealed, health-care premiums are predicted to rise sharply in coming years. Millions could slip off the rails of health insurance.

Not to worry, billionaire hedge fund managers will be fine. Lobbyists got a good look in the halls before the bill was voted on. The estate tax on family fortunes is hollowed out, in a section called the Robber Baron Protection Act. (Just kidding.)

Here’s the heart of the matter: The behemoth bill adds more than $1 trillion to the deficit. This flies in the face of Republican rhetoric, which for decades droned on about cutting social spending.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., preaches the new religion, which Trump has vociferously taken up along with about 275 lawmakers. It goes like this: Business tax cuts will result in new investment and spur more jobs and great growth, including higher wages. Workers will celebrate.

But the worst part is, they don’t even believe it themselves. It’s just a sloppy story, an alibi for what they were thinking when they pushed this beast through the Capitol in the dead of night.

Ryan represents Janesville, Wis., a town that has suffered economically when good factory jobs left when General Motors closed its plant by the river about a decade ago. But now its unemployment is low, like the nation’s — less than 5 percent.

Economists show scant support for Ryan. In fact, most say, we have an overheated economy now, not a time to stimulate and run the risk of inflation. You don’t need a Nobel Prize to know that.

Four Republican senators who swayed in the wind, who I thought might do the right thing: Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine, and Jeff Flake and John McCain from Arizona. They failed us, their country, each in a different way.

Happily, the 48 in the Senate Democratic caucus stayed together. Soon they will have a new member from Alabama, Sen.-elect Doug Jones, giving hope for next year.

But beware any speeding trains.

Jamie Stiehm writes about politics, culture and history as a weekly Creators Syndicate columnist and regular contributor to U.S. News & World Report. Follow her on Twitter: @jamiestiehm. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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