In the wee hours of Saturday morning the Senate passed its version of the Trump Tower Tax Cut. Why and what does it mean? Those are the questions I’d like to explore today. Please come along.
There will be speculation that the Senate Republicans wanted to give President Trump a legislative victory. I reject that! With the Flynn plea on Friday the writing is on the wall that this administration is doomed. (It will still take considerable time and many more shoes will fall first.) Other than the fact that much of the Republican primary base is pro-Trump, GOP Senators could care less about him.
The primary motivation was money; specifically providing a return on investment for deep pocketed Republican donors. Mitch McConnell again proved himself to be a master of the Senate by getting this boondoggle through. How did he do it? He has been a “banker” for GOP Senate candidates for years. The money comes from big donors who are very wealthy. It is no coincidence that the Trump Tower Tax Cut gives them massive tax breaks. If the Senate Republicans had failed on this vote the spigots would have slowed to a trickle. Do you really think that big money has been pouring in over social issues? The small donor who ponies up $20 to $200 is committed; the people who write six and seven figure checks are financiers who expect a return on their investment.
There is also a hidden agenda/collection of possible ancillary benefits in this legislation for the Republicans. They have been against every social safety net program the Democrats have enacted since the Franklin Roosevelt administration. This legislation increases the national debt by somewhere between $1.5 and $1 trillion. Typical of a liberal, I am not as obsessed with the national debt as most conservatives are. That being said I think it is folly to borrow money and then turn around and give most of it to people who need a passport to visit the money they already have. Mark my words, if this legislation becomes law, (more about that below), the government will be in need of cash and the Republicans will want to cut social safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid while still keeping the corporate tax cuts in place. Just look at what is permanent and sunsets in this legislation (or what we know of it anyway – more about that below also). Individual tax breaks have sunsets; corporate tax rates, the repeal of the AMT and phased repeal of the estate tax do not. Joe Lunchbucket isn’t incorporated, doesn’t pay the AMT and certainly doesn’t have a huge estate. He also doesn’t make huge political donations; but he might need a hand from government every now and then. Social Security along with Medicare is extremely significant in his retirement.
The bill (and I was tempted to put that word in quotation marks) is 479 pages long. As best illustrated by Montana Democrat Jon Tester, all but an inner circle of Republican Senators received it late Friday evening, during the debate on it and amendments to it. The text was filled with cross outs and notes illegible notes scribbled in the margins. I will go out on a limb and say that less than ten (if any) Senators read the entire bill when they passed it 51-49. Bob Corker of Tennessee was the only Republican to vote nay joining all the Democrats and the two independents that caucus with them.
What was the hurry? Here I go out on another very solid limb; the bill could never have survived public scrutiny. McConnell needed a majority to avoid exposing Vice President Mike Pence to the press as a tie breaking vote would have meant. (Do you think Pence wanted to answer Mike Flynn questions?) The only way to get that was to rush the bill through.
Here is the only silver lining in this huge cloud: the bill is not ready for the President’s desk (where it will be signed) yet. The House and Senate versions have several significant differences. The two pieces of legislation must go to conference committee for resolution and the resulting legislation must then pass both chambers. Right now the biggest hope for this legislation to fail is that the compromise version can’t pass the House. Even though Paul Ryan has a large numbers advantage he has much less control over his caucus than McConnell does over his.
I don’t know about you, but when I have to put my grandchildren’s future in the hands of the current House of Representatives I am extremely uncomfortable.
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