As the Republican push goes into overdrive to get some kind, any kind, of legislative accomplishment in 2017, prepare to hear all kinds of gibberish about “fairness” and “economic growth” and “leveling the playing field” — and if you are in the middle class, you may want to bust out that old wallet chain from the 90’s, and consider activating dual-factor authentication on your mobile banking app — because the rich and corporations really need more money, and just like your unemployed uncle who suggested happy hour at Hooter’s and then forgot his wallet, Congress wants you to pick up the tab.
Everyone agrees that the tax code is far too complicated, riddled with too many loopholes, and needs to be streamlined across the board. But does anyone really think that the same crew who brought us multiple attempts to overturn the Affordable Care Act and knock as many as 22 million Americans off their health insurance, and gut Medicare and Medicaid, suddenly gives a damn about cutting taxes for the middle class?
While it’s easy to get sucked into the talk about “massive, massive cuts for everyone” and picture your bill going down just in time for Black Friday riots at WalMart, it’s unlikely that things will ever get so simple that we can be like the U.K. and get a postcard with our tax bill and a box to check if we agree.
So, it’s probably worth taking a closer look at what these overachievers in Congress are scheming.
DISCLAIMER: The Interloper is not a trained economist or tax accountant, and probably knows less about taxes than that guy dressed as the Statue of Liberty twirling signs on the corner by Target every April; but after scanning the headlines, we are able to cobble together a few of the highlights about this “historic opportunity” — as Paul Ryan calls it – to screw the little guy.
And while nothing is finalized yet, here are just a few key highlights of what is on the table:
- Repeal of the Estate Tax. On the surface, this one kind of appeals to all Americans. We all hate taxes, and we all hope to be rich when we die, and the thought of “getting taxed again” when you die is enough to make even ole’ Ben Franklin turn over in his grave. But here is the thing: you are not getting taxed again — you are dead. The person inheriting the money, who did nothing to earn it, is getting taxed, kind of like when someone hits the lottery, or four cherries on the progressive nickel machines in Reno. They are still gonna be rich. The estate tax only applies to estates over $5.49 million in value, which is a tiny fraction of most inheritances. A recent analysis showed that if the estate tax is repealed, the Trump kids (except Tiffany) stand to gain an extra $1 Billion when dad kicks the bucket. But don’t think Trump is doing any of this for himself or his family! After all, he’s not taking a salary, just like Hitler. In fact, he donated his Q1 salary check of $77K to the National Park Service, which is really helpful, because his proposed budget would cut the Interior Department by $1.7 Billion.
- Cut the Corporate Tax rate from 35% to 20%. With the stock market at all-time highs (which Trump deserves and frequently takes total credit for), and with U.S. corporations sitting on several trillion dollars of profits overseas, it’s obvious this needs to be done as soon as possible, as corporations are hurting! You can tell this is the case when The Interloper paid more taxes last year than G.E., which paid $0 and actually got a rebate. Maybe The Interloper needs to stop using TurboTax, but we digress. Cutting from 35% to 20% is projected to cost the Treasury $2 Trillion over the next 10 years (yes that’s a “T” not a typo). No one seems to be saying they are closing $2 Trillion in G.E.’s loopholes to pay for this. Last time we let U.S. corporations repatriate overseas earnings with reduced taxes, they used all the money to buy back shares and enrich their investors. But this time will be different, they swear — this time they claim it will magically result in a $4,000 annual increase to the average salary. In fact, Wendy in HR is just waiting for Trump to sign the bill at a big ceremony in the Rose Garden so she can tell Payroll to add that to your check!
- Lower income folks — one non-partisan study shows you can expect to see about $600 less in annual taxes. That’s enough to buy a whole fleet of bump-stocks for your AR’s!
So – Republicans are planning to do the fiscally responsible thing once again, just like in the George W. Bush era, and blow a $1.5 Trillion hole in the budget because the rich and corporations are in severe financial distress, and Republicans really need to prove they can do something.
So, how to pay for it?
- Eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes. That would raise $1.3 Trillion (yes that is a “T” again) over 10 years. Let’s see, what states have the highest state taxes? New York? New Jersey? California? Well, they are all Blue States, so let’s stick it to them!
- Eliminate the $4,000 personal deduction for each household member. That would raise another $1.5 Trillion. Middle class with lots of kids? You’re hosed. Gotta love those Family Values!
- Eliminate the mortgage interest deduction for mortgages above $500K. That raises a ton of money, and again, sticks it to homeowners in high-cost states that tend to be Blue. Anyone in Kansas with a mortgage over $500K who’s last name is not Koch? Not many. Perfect!
Done and done! Now, we’re till looking at a $1.5 Trillion add-on to the deficit in order to shift all this money from the middle class to the richest 1% and corporates, but hey – later they can then claim the U.S. is broke, and the debt is too high, so we need to gut Social Security and Medicare.
No need to worry though, because Trump said none of this would personally benefit him, “believe me.” And if you believe that, he has a diploma he’d like to sell you.
Middle class? Dig out that wallet chain, ’cause someone’s about to get mugged.