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United States / Tax Policy

Tragedy Beyond Policy in the GOP Tax Bill

In the late hours of December 1, Republican senators achieved their biggest victory of 2017—passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The bill, complete with crossed-out paragraphs and handwritten edits, is a haphazard agglomeration of reforms that will overhaul America’s current tax system. At the very core of the 479 page bill are tax cuts, billions of dollars worth. These tax cuts, as economists reveal, will primarily benefit corporations while adding $1.4 trillion to the nation’s already massive debt. Despite the strain the combined tax cuts will have on future generations, Congress was given only hours to digest its content before the bill was brought to a vote. Even then, with a 51-49 majority, the Republicans succeeded in passing one of the most unpopular tax plans in recent history.

The new legislation is so unpopular that tax hikes in past decades have received more support. And the bill goes beyond mere tax cuts. The “tax” bill was an assemblage of legislation. One of the provisions in the bill will open Arctic Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling. Another will repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. While each of these new policies deserves its own critical assessment, it is also important to note the problems with the process leading up to the vote. Congress reconstructed, finalized, and voted on the largest tax reform bill since the Reagan era within the span of a few hours.  

During these crucial hours the bill underwent dramatic changes. These last-minute efforts required Republicans to shift billions of dollars around and make desperate pleas to key Republicans in exchange for their support. One of these promises even involved DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Vowing to find a solution to the DACA program, the GOP convinced Jeff Flake of Arizona to vote yes, an ironic decision considering the disastrous consequences the bill will likely have on immigrant families.

The shameful tactics deployed by Republicans represent the lengths Republicans are willing to go to achieve their most important legislative victory of 2017: passing anything. After their failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act served as a critical moment for the future of the Republican Party. Despite the far-reaching effects the tax bill will have on the nation’s economy, the Republicans likely had only one year in mind when crafting the brutal bill—2018, the year of the next midterm elections.

Even the GOP’s very own Senator Lindsey Graham emphasized just how crucial the bill was in holding together the Republican party. Graham, commenting on the bill, revealed that if the bill did not pass “the party fractures, most incumbents in 2018 will get a severe primary challenge, a lot of them will probably lose, the base will fracture, the financial contributions will stop.”

This preoccupation with the next midterm election brings into question the motivation for the bill’s  inception. Was it actually driven by the concerns of the American public? Or merely party politics?

As comments by top Senate Republicans demonstrate, the concerns of the public and the Democrats are merely white noise in the ears of the GOP. “You complain about process when you’re losing” said Mitch McConnell, addressing the minority party’s issues with the timing of the vote. What McConnell did not seem to consider is how the American people are losing with the plan.

Regardless of party politics, the American people deserve more than a bill created in secret by Trump advisors and a handful of Republican congress members. The American people deserve more from a bill that can drastically change their lives and their children’s than errors, chicken scratch, and flawed logic. They deserve carefully weighed laws, not a rough draft filled with false promises.