Thanks, But No Thanks

Let’s say you’re driving down the road at the posted speed limit of 70 mph, your car is running well, and you are on track to be home right on time. If, aside from a few bumps in road or an unforeseen disaster, you will almost certainly end up where you need to be and when, without changing anything, would you risk driving an extra .5 mph given the probability that you would receive a $10,000 ticket for barely going any faster?

Would such a tiny increase in speed, barely noticeable to even the keenest of observers, be worth the risk?

If your answer is no, and I am going to assume that most of your answers will be (because I am assuming that you all are sane human beings), then you should oppose the tax bill that Republicans are progressing towards signing into law. Here is why: replace the 70mph in the scenario with an economy that is already close to full employment and growing at an annualized rate of 3%. Then replace the .5mph increase in speed, of which its benefit can hardly be felt, with a .8% increase in economic growth. Take the $10,000 ticket and replace it with (a minimum) of $1,000,000,000,000 of additional debt that the new tax bill is expected to produce when adjusted for projected growth. The result (a .8% increase in economic growth at the cost of $1 trillion of additional debt) is the accepted consensus of the Joint Committee on Taxation (a non-partisan tax policy analysis organization) on what effect the new tax bill will have on the United States and our fiscal fortunes.

What Republicans are trying to jam through Congress will almost have no positive effect on the economy at a huge cost to Americans and further endanger our ability to borrow and spend money in the future when such a need might actually exist and be necessary to get the economy moving again (for example 2009). This bill is nothing more than a sheer act of political desperation by a party who has held all of the governmental levers of power since January and has quite simply failed to do anything of importance for the American people. Instead of focusing on things that could actually make a difference in American’s lives, such as figuring out a way to lower health care premiums or more effectively prevent gun violence, Republicans have instead latched themselves onto a bill that makes absolutely no sense in principle and will barely benefit the people who need it most. Their political calculation is that they would rather imperil the fiscal future of American generations than their own political lives.

It’s absurd.

The hypocrisy of these lawmakers is astounding. Here you have party who dragged Democrat’s feet over the coals for 8 years for driving up the deficit (when it was absolutely necessary to do so), willingly and proactively, seeking to pass a bill that will do the exact same thing. The big difference is – today there is absolutely no need to take such fiscally reckless action and no evidence that it will actually have the effect of fueling exceptionally fast economic growth that Republicans are claiming.

If you think back to 2009, when the stimulus bill was signed into law, the economy was in free fall. The banks were on the verge of collapse, the mortgage industry was in ruins, Americans were watching their savings and investments evaporate faster than they could comprehend. The economy was losing 700,000 jobs per month, the unemployment rate was racing towards 10% nationwide, and businesses were shuttering their doors at an alarming rate. It was by all accounts the worst financial situation the United States had found itself in since the Great Depression.

It was clear that something BIG needed to be done and so Democrats signed into law a number of bills that while, yes they drove up the deficit, also helped to stabilize the economy, put people back to work, reigned in the predatory practices of big banks and mortgage companies, and set the country on a path that would produce the longest uninterrupted stretch of employment gains (one that still continues today) in the history of the United States. Not only did the economy recover, but the stimulus paid for itself over the following years in measurable and sustainable economic growth. Yet, given all of that, the only thing most Republicans wanted to talk about was the growing deficit.

Incessantly, for the eight years of the Obama administration, you heard over and over about the fiscally reckless actions that Democrats were taking. How their spending was putting future generations at risk and how we were hurtling towards a fiscal cliff at an alarming rate. Hell, it is the one issue that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan built his reputation on. The deficit is Paul Ryan’s brand, it is his baby, it might be what he prays to at night…or at least I thought it was. He rode that horse from being a young congressman no one had ever heard of to becoming Speaker of the House in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

The thing is, Republican’s arguments were not falling upon deaf ears. I heard what they were saying and I thought it was a reasonable worry to have. I know from being in debt myself, that the further you get in it, the harder it is to get out, and the more money you spend trying to do so. So I understood the urgency with which Republicans were talking about it, especially when you are talking about the fiscal health of an entire nation, something that affects each and every American in one way or another. It was not that I disagreed with them in principle, I just felt it was necessary to spend, and yes add to the deficit, in order for the economy to recover at the time. To this day, given the economic recovery that occurred, I do not think that was a misplaced belief. However, my belief in the sincerity of Republican’s concerns about the deficit apparently was misplaced.

Which is why I think the tax bill about to be passed by Republicans is the most absurd and hypocritical thing I have seen politicians do in a long, long time. When you sit there and fear monger a nation about deficits and debt for eight years and then turn around and have your FIRST major piece of legislation increase the deficit by at least $1 trillion, but potentially as much as $2 trillion, you are, by the letter of the definition, a hypocrite. Instead of taking the opportunity to actually address the deficit at a time when the economy is moving along quite well, which is the prudent thing to do, Republicans have instead decided to enact tax cuts that result in a huge transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top at an unnecessary cost to the American taxpayer, while simultaneously imperiling our ability to address future financial crises.

Even the proclaimed benefits, “the biggest tax cut in history”, are a farce. Well, actually let me restate that. If you are wealthy, or a corporation, you might very well receive the biggest tax cut in history since somewhere between 60-80% of the tax breaks will go to the top 1% of income earning individuals. For everyone else, the claim is a boldface lie. If you are a middle or lower class individual, you will barely receive a tax cut. If you do receive a tax cut, unlike those for corporations, it will expire within the next ten years. What might also effect you is the billions taken from Medicare, or the repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate that will result in 13 million more uninsured individuals and higher premiums. If you are a farmer, some of your subsidies are going away. If you work for Customs and Border Patrol, some of your funding is also going away. If you are a student trying to pay for college, loans will probably be harder to receive.

And for what?

So the wealthy can keep more of their money? So corporations can increase their profits when their profits are already at record heights? So special interests can see to that their priorities take prominence over average Americans, again? So big banks can shelter their money in offshore accounts and not pay taxes? So oil companies can drill in the Alaskan Arctic Refuge? So investments in clean energy, such as wind and solar can be phased out? So you can no longer claim state and local tax deductions? So you can work harder and someone else can benefit more? So we can dig deeper the ditch of the debt we are already sinking in?

These questions are not rhetorical. They are the stark reality and the consequences of this disastrous tax bill about to be passed by Republicans without a single Democratic vote. So please do not be fooled when politicians tell you that this is the single biggest tax break for Americans ever. For some Americans, sure. For most of us, no, not at all. For those of us who have to work hard day in and day out – who do not have the luxury of having a tax lawyer on retainer to lessen our dues, who receiving a decent tax break would make a monumental difference in our ability to meet the needs of ourselves and our families, who play by the rules even if they are skewed against us – this bill really does nothing for us at a huge cost and risk to our future.

So I don’t know what your answer was to the question I posed at the beginning of this post. As far as I’m concerned, I would rather stay in my lane and do 70 all the way there instead of risking my financial future for negligible benefit. The older I get, the more I realize that the most expedient route is not necessarily the best – so give me the scenic one, the one that might not get me there the fastest but will allow me to enjoy the ride all the more.

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