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"Not content with changing the tax code to benefit oligarchs, Senate leadership sneaked in a provision to open up the pristine, ecologically sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, purportedly to get some revenue (about $1 billion over 10 years) to offset a wee bit of the $1.5 trillion shortfall created by the massive tax giveaways to the fabulously rich."

"Not content with changing the tax code to benefit oligarchs, Senate leadership sneaked in a provision to open up the pristine, ecologically sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, purportedly to get some revenue (about $1 billion over 10 years) to offset a wee bit of the $1.5 trillion shortfall created by the massive tax giveaways to the fabulously rich." (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters/Flickr/cc)

The GOP Tax Bill Assaults the Planet as Well as the Poor

It kills the modest credits for wind, solar, and electric cars, while preserving much larger ones for fossil fuels.

Basav Sen

If you are an average American, your government has just declared war against you. Unless you happen to be an oligarch. I’m talking, of course, about the monstrosity of a tax bill that Congress looks set to pass.

With good reason, only about one-third of Americans support the bill, since its primary purpose is to cut taxes for corporations and fabulously wealthy people at all costs.

The costs are high indeed, since the bill systematically raises taxes on struggling lower to middle income people. It gets rid of taxpayers’ ability to deduct state and local taxes paid from their taxable income, which is a form of double taxation. While this increases everyone’s taxes, struggling working people will feel the pain of this double taxation more than oligarchs. Make the Poor (and the Middle Class) Pay Again. And Again.

It also ends the deductibility of large medical expenses, effectively a large tax increase for the seriously ill, especially the uninsured or underinsured among them. Make the Sick Bankrupt Again.

In an all-out assault on higher education, it turns tuition reductions or waivers for graduate student teaching and research assistants into taxable income, a move that would make graduate school unaffordable for most people. Make America Uneducated Again.

The bill also gets rid of tax-exempt bonds for affordable housing construction, which are used to finance more than half of affordable rental units built each year. Make Housing Unaffordable Again.

In fact, it raises taxes on most people in so many ways that it is disingenuous to even call it a tax cut. This bill is a massive tax increase on most of us.

Lost in the debate around the tax bill, however, are provisions that will make more wind-reliant Iowans and Texans jobless, leave more hurricane-struck Puerto Ricans without access to basic necessities, poison more African-Americans with toxic fumes, and submerge more Native Alaskan villages, just to enrich a particular subset of oligarchs.

The tax bill kills the modest tax credits for solar and wind power, effectively raising taxes retroactively on renewable energy developers. It also kills the tax credit for electric cars, but does not touch the much larger subsidies for fossil fuels. Make Fossil Fuel Barons Rich Again, by subsidizing them while raising their competitor’s taxes.

These changes in energy tax credits will hurt many more people than just the owners of solar and wind companies. Solar and wind energy create many, many more jobs — hundreds of thousands more — than coal, even though they account for much smaller share of our overall energy mix than fossil fuels. If the intent of the tax bill truly were to create jobs, it would reinstate the solar and wind tax credits and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, not the other way round. Make Americans Jobless Again.

Not content with changing the tax code to benefit oligarchs, Senate leadership sneaked in a provision to open up the pristine, ecologically sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, purportedly to get some revenue (about $1 billion over 10 years) to offset a wee bit of the $1.5 trillion shortfall created by the massive tax giveaways to the fabulously rich. Evidently, Republicans are fine with digging up and burning more fossil fuels, producing more greenhouse gases for our atmosphere, despoiling sacred sites of the Gwich'in people who live in the refuge, and threatening caribou, just to Make Oil Barons Rich Again.

The tax bill will counteract the very real progress the U.S. has made to date in expanding renewable energy and reducing our reliance on planet-warming fossil fuels. Both wind and solar energy have been expanding at record-breaking rates, even as overall energy use has stagnated.

Intentionally undoing this progress by subsidizing fossil fuels and taking away tax credits for renewables will inevitably increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, already among the highest in the world in per capita terms. By way of comparison, inhabitants of the Pacific island of Kiribati, which may be erased from the map by rising oceans attributable to carbon emissions, emit on average about 3.4 percent as much as average Americans. Similarly, Bangladeshis losing their homes to disastrous floods exacerbated by climate change emit on average 2.8 percent as much.

The Trump administration has defunded environmental protection and renewable energy research, censored government scientists, recklessly expanded fossil fuel production regardless of the consequences, and quit multilateral efforts to address the gravest existential threat that humanity has ever faced, making the U.S. a rogue nation intent on enriching a tiny oligarchy at the expense of the future of humanity. The tax bill continues down the same sociopathic path. Make America Rogue Again.

None of this, of course, matters to congress people determined to Make Oligarchs Rich Again, even at the price of Making (Most) Americans Poor Again, Making the Gulf Coast Drown Again, and any number of other adverse consequences for people and planet — up to and including Making Earth Uninhabitable.


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

Basav Sen

Basav Sen is the cli­mate jus­tice project direc­tor at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and writes on the inter­sec­tions of cli­mate change and social and eco­nom­ic jus­tice. Pri­or to join­ing IPS, Basav worked for 11 years as a cam­paign researcher for the Unit­ed Food and Com­mer­cial Workers.

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