Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Analysis: Major Corporations Have Spent Just 6% of Tax Cut Windfall on Workers. Guess Where the Other 94% Went.

"You mean corporations aren't using the bulk of their tax cuts to create jobs and boost workers’ wages like Trump promised? Weird..."

Jake Johnson

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn attend an event to celebrate Congress passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act with Republican members of the House and Senate on the South Lawn of the White House December 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Almost everyone—nonpartisan commentators, economists, and even President Donald Trump's chief economic adviser—predicted that corporate shareholders and CEOs, not workers, would be the primary beneficiaries of the Republican tax law, and several recent analyses have shown that prediction to be right on the money.

"Major corporations are planning to spend more than 30 times what they are putting in the wallets of employees on buying back their own stock."
—Rick Wartzman and William Lazonick

While many corporations immediately launched aggressive PR campaigns crediting the tax plan Trump signed in December with new "investments" in employees, a study by the nonprofit group JUST Capital published on Wednesday found that the sensational headlines touting worker bonuses obscured the fact that the vast majority of the law's benefits have gone straight to the pockets of wealthy shareholders.

"Post-tax cut raises, bonuses, and other worker investments announced by 90 of the largest publicly-traded corporations average just six percent of the total windfall these companies have received from the biggest tax cut in U.S. history," the group found.

The analysis also showed that 56 percent of these worker investments came in the form of one-time bonuses, not permanent pay raises.

Additionally, the vast majority of companies examined invested none of their windfall into new jobs, while just a few companies said they invested a large percentage—making it appear that all of the companies invested more in jobs than they actually did.

Bolstering JUST Capital's study was a New York Times analysis published on Monday, which found that rather than investing their tax windfalls, companies are using the extra cash to buy their own shares—a practice that further enriches already wealthy executives and investors but does little to nothing for workers or the overall economy.

"American companies have announced more than $178 billion in planned buybacks—the largest amount unveiled in a single quarter, according to Birinyi Associates, a market research firm," notes Matt Phillips of the Times.

That amount dwarfs the relatively small gains workers are seeing from the tax law.

As the economists Rick Wartzman and William Lazonick noted in a recent op-ed for the Washington Post, the "nation’s workers are getting woefully little, at least relatively speaking."

"Peeking beyond the PR, our analysis finds that major corporations are planning to spend more than 30 times what they are putting in the wallets of employees on buying back their own stock," Wartzman and Lazonick concluded.

Many were quick to note in response to the flurry of analyses that this is hardly a surprising outcome.

As the advocacy group Americans for Tax Fairness wrote snarkily on Twitter: "You mean corporations aren’t using the bulk of their tax cuts to create jobs and boost workers wages like Trump promised? Weird..."

Patriotic Millionaires also weighed in:

Unsurprisingly, Trump—who once claimed "the rich will not be gaining at all" from the tax plan—and other White House officials have been slow to tout these developments.

Responding to the fact that corporations are using the vast majority of their "repatriated" foreign profits to enrich shareholders, Council of Economic Advisers chair Kevin Hassett explained during a White House press briefing last week that this "sometimes happens when firms find money."

Chye-Ching Huang, a tax policy analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), observed in a blog post on Tuesday that this is a reversal from Hassett's previous claims during last year's debate on the tax plan that companies would use repatriated profits to invest in workers and "build factories."

"It's good that Hassett has acknowledged that repatriated profits are going overwhelmingly to stock buybacks and dividend increases, as they have in the past," Huang concluded. "But it's a shame that he ignored the record when he was pushing for Congress to pass the new tax law."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·


PG&E Charged With 11 Felony Counts—Including Manslaughter—Over 2020 Zogg Fire

"PG&E has a history with a repeated pattern of causing wildfires that is not getting better," said Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. "It's only getting worse."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Hold My Pearls': Debbie Dingell Lets Marjorie Taylor Green Have It Over Abortion Rights

The Michigan Democrat engaged in a verbal altercation with the far-right Republican lawmaker from Georgia on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Jon Queally ·


Dems Who Opposed Pentagon Cuts Received Nearly 4x More Donations From Weapons Makers

The latest passage of the NDAA "is particularly strong evidence that Pentagon contractors' interests easily take precedence over national security and the public interest for too many members of Congress," said one critic.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo