Deficit Hawk Myth Dead as GOP Unite Over Morally and Economically 'Obscene' Tax Bill

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Deficit Hawk Myth Dead as GOP Unite Over Morally and Economically 'Obscene' Tax Bill

"Next year when Republicans propose deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid under the guise of deficit reduction, we will all remember that they increased the deficit by $1.5 trillion in order to give tax cuts to millionaires and big corporations."

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) talks with a reporter in the hallway outside a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing concerning terrorism and radicalization in North Africa, on Capitol Hill, December 6, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

"Hypocrisy rules in Washington."

So said Frank Clemente, executive director for Americans for Tax Fairness, in the wake of the release by the Republican conference committee of the party's final tax plan on Friday and news that both Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Mark Rubio (R-Fl.) had ended their so-called "principled" opposition to the bill and would vote 'Yes.'

"The myth of the deficit hawk is now dead. Next year when Republicans propose deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid under the guise of deficit reduction, we will all remember that they increased the deficit by $1.5 trillion in order to give tax cuts to millionaires and big corporations. If this bill becomes law, it will be a travesty for working families, and a slap in the face to principles."
—Frank Clemente, Americans for Tax Fairness
Among other details, the final bill will drop the nation's corporate rate a full 14 percentage points, from it's current 35% down to 21%, while also giving the nation's richest a massive and permanent Christmas present by cutting the individual income rate from 39.6% down to 37%—a bigger giveaway, in fact, than earlier versions.

The final bill will also abolish individual mandate provision from the Affordable Care Act, which as New York Magazine's Eric Levitz notes, "will decrease participation in Obamacare — and thus, decrease the amount the government spends on health insurance subsidies by roughly $300 billion over the next decade. Republicans need that money to pass giant tax cuts for the rich without violating their budget resolution (which forbids them from adding more than $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years)."

Corker—the only GOP senator to vote against the Senate versions repeatedly said he would not support a bill if it would blow a gaping hole in the national deficit—as every credible analysis performed on the various versions showed.

But in the end, paving the way for a vote on the package early next week, he dropped his previous with little explanation.

"With Bob Corker's reversal," said Clemente, "the myth of the deficit hawk is now dead. Next year when Republicans propose deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid under the guise of deficit reduction, we will all remember that they increased the deficit by $1.5 trillion in order to give tax cuts to millionaires and big corporations. If this bill becomes law, it will be a travesty for working families, and a slap in the face to principles."

On a conference call with Republican Party members on Friday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan indicated the votes are now there to pass the conference bill in both chambers. "This is happening," Ryan said. "Tax reform under Republican control of Washington is happening. Most critics out there didn't think it could happen.... Now we're on the doorstep of something truly historic."

But what Ryan describes as "historic," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called "a moral and economic obscenity." The final plan, Sanders said late Friday night, "is a gift to wealthy Republican campaign contributors and an insult to the working families of our country. No member of Congress should vote for this disastrous legislation."

In an interview with the Guardian published Saturday, Sanders explained that "what this is all about is nothing more than the Republican party very generously rewarding their wealthy campaign contributors."

The former presidential challenger said the reform of the tax code, which could clear both the House and the Senate and be signed into law by the the US president as early as next week, was based on the "rightwing extremist ideology of the Koch brothers. You can read it in what they were saying 40 years ago. What they want is an oligarchic form of society in which government plays virtually no role in public education, healthcare or addressing the needs of middle-class and working families."

The end game, Sanders said, was that "you are on your own. You are 80 years old and you have cancer – good luck to you. Government is not there for you."

Alan Essig, executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said, "This is not governing, it's hijacking our tax code." What is also clear now, he added, is that corporations and the rich will be served mightily if the final bill passes, but working people: "not so much."

When the story is told about "the tax catastrophe of 2017" in the future, Essig said, "it will be the middle-class families with children who now pay higher taxes so that wealthy business owners can pay less. It will be the working people who pay more so that corporate shareholders, including foreign investors, can benefit from corporate tax cuts."

Though Corker was only the last Republican to cave when it came to "standing on principles" about the deficit, his support for the bill opened the floodgates for critics pointing out the obvious and far-reaching hypocrisy of the entire GOP project when it comes to government and the economy.

"This tax bill is a moral and economic obscenity. It is a gift to wealthy Republican campaign contributors and an insult to the working families of our country. No member of Congress should vote for this disastrous legislation."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

"Don't let your Uncle Bob be fooled," wrote economist and former labor secretary Robert Reich on Saturday: "Republicans are voting for this because their wealthy patrons demand it. Their tax plan will weaken our economy for years – reducing demand, widening inequality, and increasing the national debt by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade."

He added, "Shame on the greedy Republican backers who have engineered this. Shame on Trump and the Republicans who have lied to the pubic about its consequences."

Melissa Boteach, vice president of the Poverty Program at the Center for American Progress, started a running list of things the GOP—now that that their anti-deficit canard is irrevocably out in the open—is "never allowed to complain about again." Her list included: 

  1. The deficit: you can’t add $1.5T to deficit for tax cuts for millionaires & corporations then whip up deficit hysteria over Medicaid... Seriously, if GOP says “We need to cut [X program for working families] because of ‘the deficit’” & media doesn’t mention this tax bill...
  2. "Decline of family values": The leader of your party just endorsed an alleged pedophile to pass a tax cut. Some GOP leaders spoke out...
  3. "Charities best equipped to help struggling families" um... your tax bill just hurt their bottom line
  4. "We can’t afford to cut poverty" seriously after this tax bill, you NEVER get to say that again

Rubio, who did his best to garner admiration as a noble holdout, based his objections on the size of Child Tax Credit (CTC), but after he finally said he was a 'Yes' on Friday, tax analysts quickly showed that the apparent changes made to appease him were paltry at best.

"Republicans are voting for this because their wealthy patrons demand it. Their tax plan will weaken our economy for years – reducing demand, widening inequality, and increasing the national debt by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade." —economist Robert ReichAccording to Chye-Ching Huang, deputy director for tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the final bill released Friday "does nothing, compared to the Senate bill, to improve the CTC for 10 million children in low-income working families—meaning that those children will get only a token increase of up to $75 per family or no increase at all."

Overall, Huang explained, "the last-minute changes that Republican leaders made were modest and did almost nothing to change the bill's fundamental nature. It still provides large tax cuts heavily tilted toward wealthy households and profitable corporations and adds at least $1.5 trillion to deficits over ten years while doing little if anything for millions of low- and modest-income households."

Now, with Rubio and Corker now firmly in the 'Yes' column—after folding, as the Huffington Post noted, "for hardly any reason at all"—focus is now back on Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), both of whom have not made a formal announcement about how they intend to vote. Two other GOP senators, John McCain of Arizona and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, are both in the hospital with health concerns but are expected to return to the Senate for a vote when the bill arrives.

Refusing to give up, national public interest and advocacy groups are targeted House members over the weekend and vowing to raise hell on Capitol Hill and in local districts nationwide next week:

Progressive opponents of the bill are also planning to join with Maine residents in the days ahead to increase the pressure on Collins. For Monday, national groups—including UltraViolet, Working Families Party, CREDO Action, and MoveOn.org—are planning a major protest outside her offices in Portland.

"Senator Collins needs to know that a vote for this tax bill is a vote against women," said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, in a call to action. "While Collins is still undecided on the tax plan, if she votes 'yes,' it will give millionaires and billionaires huge tax breaks while raising taxes on everyone else and slashing programs that women rely on. Congress is headed for a final vote next week, and Senator Collins could make or break this disastrous tax plan, which is why it's so important that we keep up the pressure until she decides her vote on the final bill."

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