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“Let’s Get As Much As We Can Before the Cops Show Up”


Good piece by Butler on the No Billionaires Left Behind Act, which Erik is right to be despaired about:

After the House version of the legislation passed, Speaker Paul Ryan said it was “about giving hardworking taxpayers bigger paychecks, more take-home pay … about giving those families who are struggling peace of mind.”

If you’ve followed coverage of the tax bills closely, you’ll know that reporters and tax policy experts have been at pains to unspin this characterization. But there are so many ways to spot the lie, it’s worth compiling them all in one place.

1. Revealed preferences. The most obvious tell is that Republicans, particularly in the Senate, wrote their tax bills to make large corporate tax cuts permanent, while making provisions that benefit workers expire after several years. The House bill permanently repeals the estate tax, as well, while the Senate bill doubles the estate tax exemption for heirs of large estates. The proximate reason they wrote their bills this way is that Senate budget rules prohibit expedited tax legislation from increasing deficits in the long term, so they had to make at least some revenue-negative provisions expire. The fact that they chose to play brinksmanship with provisions benefitting the middle class while making sure tax cuts benefitting the wealthy exclusively never sunset, tells you everything about their priorities.

2. Look at the distribution tables. The Senate and House tax bills are different in important ways, but they have the same basic shape insofar as they both increase taxes on several million lower- and middle-income households early on, even before provisions benefiting the middle class expire. This effect is particularly pronounced in the Senate bill, which starts as a tax cut for average (though not all) middle-class families, evolves after a few years into a tax increase, and then hits millions more with higher taxes by 2027.


5. They’re all piled into the getaway car wearing their robber masks. In some ways, the most profound and persuasive evidence that Republicans are poised to plunder the treasury for the rich requires no scrutiny of the contents of their tax bills at all. Rather, one could simply observe that if Republicans weren’t poised to plunder the treasury for the rich, they’d be behaving rather differently. If these were the kinds of tax bills Paul Ryan and others describe, Republicans wouldn’t be vulnerable to criticism, nor proceeding in a rushed and partisan fashion. A bona fide middle-class tax cut would pass overwhelmingly. A revenue- and distributionally-neutral tax reform initiative would likewise be a bipartisan undertaking, and produce legislation that congressional leaders would unveil upon completion of painstaking negotiations, and not a moment sooner. The reason these bills are advancing along party lines, through an arcane legislative process that allows partisan majorities to avoid filibusters, is because they don’t help the middle class and don’t fix major problems with the tax code. Republicans are acting like they’re about to get caught lining rich people’s pockets, because that’s exactly what they’re up to.

This was always the inevitable endgame of a unified Republican government, and the idea that Trump would alter the basic Republican coalition was always delusional.

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