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EDITORIAL: Trump and Republican tax plan gives democracy a beating

President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform at the St. Charles Convention Center on Wednesday in St. Charles, Mo. | AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

If you find you hate the Republican tax bill now being moved through Congress, you can’t say you weren’t warned.

No, wait. You can say that. You have been warned, yes. But not fully and fairly.

On the contrary, you have been fed a load of nonsense.

The GOP and Trump administration’s tax “reform” plan is undemocratic in substance, shifting even more of our nation’s wealth to the richest Americans. It is also undemocratic in process, being rushed into law without proper debate or analysis.

EDITORIAL

There have been no hearings. Not a one. There has been no waiting for a full scoring from the Congressional Budget Office. There has been no effort to compromise with Democrats. Senate Republicans are shoving the bill through Congress under parliamentary rules that prevent a filibuster, allowing them to duck bothersome bipartisan debate.

On a matter of such importance to every American, we haven’t seen so great a disregard for the democratic process in at least a generation.

The last time our nation’s tax code was overhauled, when Ronald Reagan was president, negotiations stretched over two years and included dozens of public hearings. Congress welcomed the testimony of economists and other experts.

When the Affordable Care Act was being created, a similarly open and full debate played out, even if the law eventually passed with only Democratic votes. The ACA was debated in three House committees and two Senate committees, where dozens of amendments were introduced. The Senate debated ACA legislation for 25 straight days.

So why the rush now? In part because Republicans in Congress and President Trump are desperate to claim a victory before the year is up.

But equally driving the rush is fear of a backlash once the public more widely understands who gains and who loses. The GOP tax plan is a giveaway to the wealthiest Americans and corporations, which is to say it is a giveaway to the Republican Party’s biggest and most demanding donors. The GOP tax plan is, pure and simply, a return on their investment.

The plan would give corporations, who are enjoying record profits, a $2 trillion tax break over 10 years, and that break would be permanent. Working Americans earning $75,000 a year or less, however, would see their taxes go up by 2027, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Their tax break would not be permanent.

The biggest tax breaks on income would go to the rich, but the GOP tax plan also favors the very wealthiest Americans in other ways. The estate tax, most offensively, would be eliminated entirely under the House plan, meaning billions of dollars in inherited wealth could be passed down through generations untouched by the taxman, creating a new American aristocracy of unearned fortune.

The GOP tax plan is excellent if you believe that the richest 1 percent of Americans, who own 40 percent of our nation’s wealth, are not doing well enough. But it is an insult to the notion that American capitalism rewards hard work, risk-taking and brains, not bloodlines.

The industrialist Koch brothers, among the most generous of all GOP supporters, love the plan. It will increase their billions. Catholic bishops, on the other hand, by and large deplore it.

“This proposal appears to be the first federal income tax modification in American history that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy,” wrote Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida, who is chairman of the American Catholic bishops’ Domestic Justice and Human Development Committee. “Tax breaks for the financially secure, including millionaires and billionaires, should not be made possible by increasing taxes to families struggling to meet their daily needs.”

Reagan’s tax code overhaul in 1986 enjoyed an acceptable level of public support, reports the New York Times. A slight majority of voters favored it, possibly because they felt it fairly redistributed the tax burden, and maybe also because they respected the legislative process that led to the changes.

In contrast, only about a third of voters support the current Republican plan, and almost half — 46 percent — oppose it.

Skeptics believe the GOP plan disproportionately benefits the rich, and they are right. They fear it will be the ruin of the Affordable Care Act by eliminating the requirement that most people carry health insurance or pay a fine, and they are right. They fear it will drive up the deficit, and they are right.

Economists are widely skeptical that the tax cuts will pay for themselves by firing up the economy. More likely, they say, the federal deficit, which we thought Republicans cared about, will grow by an estimated $1.4 trillion over 10 years.

President Trump and Republicans in Congress are dead-set on ramming through a new tax code that rewards the rich, hurts the poor and, in a few years, pulls the rug out from under the middle class.

Democracy is taking a beating.

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