EDITORIAL: Sorry, Tribune, but this tax ‘reform’ is awful for Chicago

SHARE EDITORIAL: Sorry, Tribune, but this tax ‘reform’ is awful for Chicago

Demonstrators against the Republican tax reform bill protest outside the U.S. CapitolWashington, D.C., on Nov. 30. / Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

No, this is not tax reform. Going backward is not “reform.”

No, this is not proof the Republican majority in Congress “can govern.” If this dreadful tax plan is passed, it will prove only that the GOP is committed to doing its masters’ bidding, making the ultra-rich richer still.

No, it will not “ultimately put money in people’s pockets,” not in the long run, and not if “people” includes anybody who works paycheck to paycheck.

No, it won’t pump up the economy with “steady 3 percent growth.” Every honest analysis say that’s a bad bet.

No, it won’t “boost stagnant wages.” Not if history is any guide.

And no, this tax plan won’t “pay for itself.” Even the Chicago Tribune admits to doubt about that one.

Pretty much every glowing claim about the GOP tax plan made in a Tribune editorial on Tuesday is hogwash, a triumph of one-dimensional ideology over three-dimensional reality. The plan is bad for Illinois, bad for Chicago, and bad above all for ordinary working people.

Don’t be taken in.

The Chicago Sun, precursor to the Sun-Times, was founded in 1941 explicitly to stand up for the New Deal agenda of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and against the ruling-class conservatism of the Tribune’s editorial page. The Sun, and then the Sun-Times, faced off against the Tribune in defense of a fairer shake for the middle class, the powerless and the poor. We championed Social Security, unemployment compensation, a minimum wage, Medicare and Medicaid, a progressive income tax and greater public investment in schools and universities.

Now, we find ourselves at it again. President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress are hell-bent on shoveling even more of our nation’s wealth to a tiny fraction of the richest Americans, while tearing at a social safety net that has lifted three generations of Americans out of despair.

And while the Tribune prevaricates or — as in the case of this Gilded Age tax plan — jumps right on board with the Republican Party’s assault on basic fairness, we know where we stand.

With the people of Chicago.


Let’s be clear about how the GOP’s tax plan plays us like chumps:

Republican ideologues and the Tribune are convinced that if you just slash taxes for big corporations and billionaires, employers will invest more, create more jobs and increase wages. The unseen hand of the market will fairly reward hard work and merit. That’s the textbook free-market theory, and we wish it were true.

But just how much more does the wealth gap in America have to grow before free-market absolutists come to see that the system is not working? Our meritocracy is broken. The top 1 percent of Americans own 38.6 percent of the nation’s wealth, up from 33.7 percent 10 years ago. The bottom 90 percent own only 22.8 percent of the nation’s wealth, down from 28.5 percent 10 years ago.

Corporations are enjoying record profits, yet wages are flat. Merit is not being rewarded. Trickle-down is a fiction. America’s biggest companies consistently have used their profits to hike already exorbitant executive salaries and raise share prices, largely stiffing ordinary workers.

Yet every major study, including by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, says the GOP tax cuts mainly would benefit big corporations and the wealthy, with the poor paying more almost immediately and the middle class paying more by 2027.

True economic growth comes from the bottom up. Pay workers better, educate their children better and provide better health care, and watch the middle class grow.

When you next pay your federal income taxes or in 2019, if and when this GOP tax plan becomes law, you may no longer be able to deduct what you paid in state and local taxes. The Tribune thinks this is terrific. If people can’t claim that deduction, a Tribune editorial reasoned last month, maybe politicians won’t feel so free to increase property taxes.

A question: Are you prepared to pay more in federal taxes next year to teach local politicians a lesson? Or does the Tribune have things backward? A better way: Go after high property taxes. Demand, to begin with, that the Legislature follow the state Constitution and do more to fund public schools, which soak up property taxes.

In the meantime, though, please. Why deny middle-class taxpayers a modest deduction intended to help keep them financially above water?

The Tribune editorial fails to mention how the Republican tax plan, by stealth, attempts to kill the Affordable Care Act. The Senate GOP version of the plan maintains the insurance subsidies for Obamacare and the expansion of Medicaid — terrific — but it repeals the Obamacare mandate that people have health insurance or pay a penalty. Without that mandate, which makes average premiums more affordable, 13 million people eventually will lose insurance.

The Tribune also fails to mention that both the House and Senate Republican tax plans chop away at the inheritance tax, one of the few direct ways our nation tries to slow the creation of a ruling aristocracy of inherited wealth. Even at today’s levels, only two-tenths of 1 percent of all estates are subjected to the estate tax.

While Republicans pretend to believe their tax plan will “pay for itself,” every independent and nonpartisan analysis predicts the nation’s debt will soar. And what then?

The same servants of the rich who slashed taxes for billionaires will use the growing federal deficit as an excuse to cut away at the programs that matter most to ordinary working Americans and the poor. In the name of “reform” — that specious word. We predict Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and affordable health insurance all will take a beating.

The GOP tax plan is a dog for Chicago, unless, we suppose, you work on La Salle Street and live in Lake Forest. The Chicago Tribune endorses it, but we deplore it.

You tell us who’s on your side.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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