The tax bills just passed by the House and the Senate are each an historically catastrophic disaster for most Americans in general, and for most New Jerseyans in particular.
These bills still need to be reconciled and voted on by the same Republican-controlled houses of Congress that wrote them. But what is obvious now is that no amount of tinkering around the edges can save our country from the impact of this titanically callous, unfair, and destructive legislation — if it is passed.
Here is the fundamental question: Is this the best use of the $1 to $3 trillion that these tax bills will add to our national debt?
To put this question in context, let’s consider just a few examples of the many terrible provisions and effects of this legislation: It (i) adds between $1 trillion to $3 trillion to our national debt; (ii) cuts hundreds of billions needed to meet the obligations of Medicare and Medicaid to our nation’s baby boomers and retirees; (iii) raises taxes on 78 million middle class households; (iv) results in 13 million Americans losing health insurance; (v) provides no money for the rebuilding of America’s crumbling roads, sewers, bridges, tunnels, airports, buses or trains; (vi) gives no money for research and development for cures of diseases or for technological breakthroughs in engineering, industry, or science; (vii) taxes graduate students if they have been given a tuition grant or waiver; and (viii) ends or caps the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes.
As for the tax bill’s effect on our nation’s economy in general, there is no dispute that this bill will add to our national debt. In a party-line vote, the Republican-majority House and Senate conceded as much.
Just a few weeks ago, Republican senators and representatives voted to allow $1.5 trillion in debt to be added to their budget authority. The most conservative estimates show that these tax bills use up at least $1 trillion of that amount. Most economists, however, believe that this legislation will cause as much as $2 trillion or $3 trillion dollars to be added to the national debt.
According to the Federal Reserve, 1 percent of Americans now own nearly 40 percent of our nation’s wealth, and that disparity increases every year. These new tax cuts, which disproportionately benefit the richest of Americans, will make that already indefensible and growing chasm even bigger.
If past is prologue (and by the actual admission of many CEOs) we can expect that our very wealthiest individuals and corporations will hold onto their newly gotten tax cuts, enhance their lifestyles, buy back their stock, and give their executives and shareholders greater returns, but they will not markedly invest in any additional employees, capital plant, infrastructure, or research and development.
These new “Trump tax cuts” also will fail to provide real tax relief to the vast majority of Americans.
For example, the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that as a direct result of these debt-increasing tax cut bills, by 2027, 84 percent of U.S. households will face either a tax increase or a tax cut that is smaller than $100. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center calculates that half the tax savings would go to the top 1 percent — people who earn more than $732,800. The center adds that after 10 years, nearly 80 percent of the savings would go to the top 1 percent of earners.
As for the harm to New Jerseyans in particular, the House and Senate bills either eliminate or cap the deduction for state and local property and income taxes, costing New Jerseyans more than $130 million dollars. It has been estimated that this provision will reduce the value of New Jersey homes, make home ownership here more expensive to maintain, and seriously hurt many homeowners’ ability to sell their houses.
To make matters even more unfair and unreasonable, these tax bills keep the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion in place. That allows someone to exclude $101,300 in income earned outside of the United States, if taxes were paid on that money in the foreign country. The notion that taxes paid to a foreign government can be deducted, but taxes paid to an American state or local government cannot be, is simply unfair and discriminatory against those earning their incomes in America. This is yet another example of how these tax cut bills help a very few wealthy people at the expense of a far greater number of Americans.
Now is not the time to double down on a failed trickle-down theory that disproportionately benefits only the richest among us, makes our country’s economic situation worse, puts off addressing our nation’s real problems, adds to the suffering of tens of millions of Americans, and further burdens our children with paying off a greater national debt, leaving them to fix those problems that will have gotten worse and more expensive to address and making them less competitive in the global economy.
If President Trump signs these bills, they will undermine the American economy, while the vast majority of Americans either will get nothing out of it or will lose a lot. These tax cuts will make most Americans’ economic lives more insecure, unfair, and unstable.
Reach out to as many House and Senate Republican members as you can to get them to vote down these disastrous bills.
And while you’re at it, encourage President Trump to start his “tax reform” effort again. This time, demand that he incorporate the priorities and wellbeing of the vast majority of Americans, not only his chosen few.
Steven R. Rothman of Englewood, a Democrat, is the former U.S. Congressman who represented New Jersey’s 9th Congressional District from 1997 to 2013.