A massive gift of hypocrisy and venality

To the donor class, jingling Merry Christmas! all over the place. Thomas Edsall: You Cannot Be Too Cynical About the Republican Tax Bill.

It's not exactly a news flash, but no, Virginia, this is not a tax break for the middle class. There will be a little splashover to the plebes, but the main event is "a $1.4 trillion package of benefits for key donors and lobbyists, the richest members of Congress, President Trump, his family and other families like his." Duh.

Is it the BIGGEST, as Mr. Bigly is so fatuously bragging it up? Nope. Might be 2nd, or 4th, but not #1. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, enacted in 2013 was somewhere between 50% larger and twice as big. Under the tyrant Obama, who knew?

This was surely the FASTEST and LEAST WELL-CONSIDERED. Every well-connected lobbyist's wish list was wrapped up with a bow and stuffed into Santa's sack in a screaming hurry.

Thirty-one years coming and all of seven weeks in gestation, with no substantive hearings, no actual analysis published by the Treasury Department, and so much last-minute horse-trading (and parliamentarian vetoing), that none of the half of Congress that voted "aye" could have possibly understood what they just approved in its entirety. Never mind even just "read the bill."

But you could read it if you wanted. It's officially known as H.R.1 - An Act to provide for reconciliation pursuant to titles II and V of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2018. Good luck. You can also read the final pre-passage Congressional Budget Office cost estimate for it to see the direct estimate of the increase in the deficit is $1.455 trillion. Its "major legislation" status requires that "the cost estimate, to the extent practicable, include the budgetary impact of the bill’s macroeconomic effects," but shucks, "it is not practicable to provide an estimate of the budgetary impact of the bill’s macroeconomic effects at this time."

Feel free to imagine that it will pay for itself in sugarplums and clean coal in your stockings, the way Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell did.

This "tax reform" includes a kick in the teeth to the Affordable Care Act (Collins' collapse), opening up drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (Murkowski mayhem), and whoops, a Corker Kickback tax bonanza for real estate developers, how did that happen? (But having $20 per month from your employer to cover the expense of bicycle commuting be deductible? OMG THAT IS A BRIDGE TOO FAR.)

It did not, of course, "simplify" anything having to do with the Tax Code, or filing your taxes. There are new rules to learn, and new loopholes to discover and abuse. (Unless of course you wrote them for your own benefit.)

Two days before Congress gave final approval, a group of 13 tax law experts released the most incisive critique of the tax bill to date, a 30-page document called “The Games They Will Play: An Update on the Conference Committee Tax Bill.”

The primary authors of the report — Ari Glogower, David Kamin, Rebecca Kysar, and Darien Shanske — describe the legislation as “a substantial blow to the basic integrity of the income tax” that will “advantage the well-advised in ways that are both deliberate and inadvertent.”

Preferences to some, with "no discernible policy rationale"; advantages to corporations over individuals, and thus the incentive for individuals to corporatize themselves; incentives for passive income over earned income; for tax evasion, using rate differentials and "ill-considered transitions"; incentives to shift assets, and jobs abroad; using the chained CPI to build in negative impact on lower and middle-income families for the future (and a backdoor to reducing Social Security and Medicare payments).

Without. A. Single. Hearing.

Remember all that outrage (and the campaign promise) about the "carried interest provision"? Whoops, didn't get around to fixing that. And so much more.

"After looking at the legislation in its entirety — its substance and the procedures used to get there — it is difficult to conclude that the motivations of its sponsors are either benevolent or somehow in the best interests of the country. More likely it is hypocrisy and venality mixed up into one awful bill."

Tom von Alten, December 21, 2017