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Senate Passes Tax Cut Bill On Party Line Vote

tax-forms

Late last night, on a party-line vote that left little room to spare, the Senate passed its version of what it calls tax reform but what is, in reality, just another version of what we’ve seen in the past:

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed the most sweeping tax rewrite in decades early Saturday, with Republicans lining up to approve an overhaul that will touch almost every corner of the United States economy, affecting families, small business owners and multinational corporations, with the biggest benefits flowing to the highest-earning Americans.

Senators voted 51-49, as Republicans approved the nearly 500-page bill in the early morning hours after lawmakers received a rewritten version, which contained significant changes from the original bill that passed two Senate panels last month along party lines. The last-minute revisions prompted an outcry from Democrats, who said it was impossible — and irresponsible — for lawmakers to read and digest a significant piece of legislation in such a short period of time.

Speaking on the Senate floor ahead of the vote, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, called the Republican approach “a process and a product that no one can be proud of and everyone should be ashamed of.”

He went on to warn that changes made to the bill “under the cover of darkness” would “stuff even more money into the pockets of the wealthy and the biggest corporations while raising taxes on millions in the middle class.”

Many of the changes stemmed from a series of last-minute agreements reached to convince a handful of holdout Republican senators, including Susan Collins of Maine and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, to throw their support behind the legislation. One of those Republican holdouts, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, voted against the legislation.

Early on Saturday morning, Mr. Pence provided a tiebreaking vote to pass an amendment offered by Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, that would allow people to use up to $10,000 a year from tax-advantaged 529 savings accounts to fund tuition at private and religious K-12 schools or certain educational expenses for home-schooled students. Right now, such accounts can only be used to pay for higher education.

The bill’s approval, coming on the heels of the House passing its own tax bill last month, is the first significant legislative victory for the Republican Party since it assumed control of the House, Senate and White House in 2017. The lightning-fast trajectory of the bill and the ability to overcome — or ignore — objections that have bedeviled previous attempts to revamp the tax code, highlights the pressure Republican leaders faced to notch a victory after several failed legislative efforts this year.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader and Kentucky Republican, called it “a great day for the country.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, said in a statement that with Senate approval “we will move quickly to a conference committee so we can get a final bill to President Trump’s desk.”

The president praised lawmakers on Saturday morning on Twitter, saying, “Biggest Tax Bill and Tax Cuts in history just passed in the Senate. Now these great Republicans will be going for final passage. Thank you to House and Senate Republicans for your hard work and commitment!”

Republicans have pitched the bill as a middle-class tax cut and the overhaul is intended to immediately cut taxes for about 70 percent of middle-class families. But it would raise them on millions of others, since the Senate plan eliminates some tax breaks like the deduction for state and local income taxes and phases out the individual tax cuts at the end of 2025.

Businesses fare far better, with the corporate tax rate cut to 20 percent from 35 percent and made permanent. It also offers a large tax break for the owners of small businesses and other companies that are not organized as traditional corporations, a provision that was sweetened in a last-minute deal to bring two wavering senators on board.

Democrats opposed the tax bill as a bloc, saying it was meant to help the wealthy and not the middle class. With the Senate split 52 to 48, Republicans barely had votes to spare. But the bill’s passage was made possible by a near-complete Republican embrace of the idea that about $1.5 trillion of tax cuts will pay for themselves, by producing enough economic growth and additional federal revenue to offset their costs to the Treasury.

That belief was contradicted by several studies, including one from Congress’s official economic scorekeeper, which Republicans dismissed as overly pessimistic.

Mr. McConnell waved off any deficit concerns. “I’m totally confident this is a revenue-neutral bill,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a revenue producer.”

The House and Senate will now work quickly to resolve the differences between their bills and deliver a plan to President Trump’s desk, with the aim of delivery by Christmas.

Congressional leaders raced the bill through the House and the Senate in a month, with a crush of changes coming in the 11th hour as Senate leadership worked to address the concerns of a few lawmakers whose support was critical to passage. Several changes were included to satisfy Ms. Collins, including a provision that will allow taxpayers to deduct up to $10,000 in state and local property taxes paid and allowing lower-income individuals to claim the medical expense deduction.

More from The Washington Post:

Senate Republicans passed a $1.5 trillion tax bill early Saturday morning that bestows massive benefits on corporate America and the wealthy while delivering mixed blessings to everybody else.

After a frantic round of negotiations, Republicans came together in near unanimity behind the landmark legislation. The final vote was 51 to 49, with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) the lone GOP holdout. No Democrats voted for the bill.

The measure still has to be reconciled with an earlier House-passed version before being sent to President Trump. Yet in getting the bill through the Senate, Republicans succeeded where they failed earlier this year, when their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act collapsed in mortifying fashion.

This time, urged on by donors and fearful of facing voters in next year’s midterm elections without a legislative achievement to show, Republicans said time and again that failure was not an option.

“The American people wanted change,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). “We were able to deliver.”

The centerpiece of the GOP plan is a move to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, starting in 2019. The Senate tax bill would also temporarily cut tax rates for families and individuals until 2025.

But the bill would kill a number of tax benefits. It would subject fewer people to the estate tax, a levy charged on massive inheritances, but stop short of eliminating that tax altogether.

The most recent review of the bill by the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s nonpartisan tax analysts, found that only 44 percent of taxpayers would see their burden reduced by more than $500 in 2019 but that high earners would fare much better than the poor under the bill.

And the bill makes other changes that reach far beyond the tax code itself. It repeals the individual mandate from the Affordable Care Act, a major change that was added in recent weeks as part of a broader GOP effort to dismantle the Obama-era law. The individual mandate creates penalties for many Americans who don’t have health insurance, but the repeal would leave 13 million more people uninsured. It authorizes oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. And by curtailing deductions for state and local taxes, it will put pressure on some state and local spending on education, transportation and public health programs.

(…)

Senate leaders had little margin for error, since they can lose only two GOP votes and still prevail in the closely divided chamber. Democrats are unanimously opposed to the bill, and took turns Friday delivering scorching floor speeches slamming it as a giveaway to the rich.

And as evening wore into night Friday with Republicans still fine-tuning the final language of the bill, Democrats exploded in outrage when Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said she received a list of planned changes from a lobbyist and not from Republicans in the Senate who were keeping all their decisions closely held.

A few minutes later, a 479-page draft of the changes leaked out to the public. It included several pages of hand-written changes to the bill. Democrats, who were effectively powerless in trying to stop the bill’s passage, tried to cast the last-second changes as boondoggles for corporations which had not been debated or explained.

Some of the hand-written changes were crammed in the margin and hard to decipher.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) posted a video of himself on Twitter acting incredulous as he slammed the bill down on a table.

“This is your government at work,” he said in disgust.

While this narrow vote is a win for Republicans and does make it more likely that a tax cut bill will make it to the President’s desk before Christmas, it came at the end of a week in which the Senate came close to experiencing the same kind of legislative roadblock that it did on health care. For several days, the votes of a number of key Senators ranging from Jeff Flake in Arizona to Susan Collins in Maine along with a handful of others were in doubt. In some cases, it was due to specific provisions of the bill posed problems for people in their states. In others, it was due to the projections showing that the bill would add close to $1.5 trillion to the Federal budget deficit over the course of ten years combined with the impact that the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is projected to have on the ability of many Americans to purchase health insurance and on insurance premiums for millions more. According to a Congressional Budget Office, for example, that part of the bill would through at least 13 million people off insurance roles and ultimately lead to increased premiums and deductibles as insurance companies respond to the fact that younger, healthier Americans would be less likely to purchase insurance, thus increasing the risk premium for insurance companies and causing them to raise rates for the rest of the people in the insurance pool. In the end, though, leadership was able to make sufficient changes to pull most of the doubters over to the “Yes” side. The only Republican to vote “No” was Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who of course is not running for re-election next year.

As for the merits of the bill, they leave a lot to be desired. In its present form, the Senate bill would add trillions to the Federal deficit and national debt at a time when we can hardly afford either one. Despite the claims of its advocates, the analysis makes clear that it will likely benefit high-income earners far more than it will benefit the middle class. Additionally, the claims that the cuts in corporate rates, which aren’t a bad idea in and of themselves, most likely will not significantly increase economic growth. In fact, most top corporate executives are on the record as saying that the savings they might receive from decreased taxes would likely be passed on to shareholders rather than invested in expansion or used to increase wages or increase hiring of new workers. Finally, contrary to the claims of Republicans, neither this bill nor the one passed by the House constitute “tax reform.” Neither bill simplifies the tax code. Neither bill will make it easier for individuals to fill out their tax returns. Neither bill simplifies the tax code. This is just another version of the same nonsense we’ve seen for some thirty years now. Congress played with rates a little, but the worst aspects of the tax code remain in place while throwing benefits to favored industries and lobbyists. Meanwhile, the rest of us are left with yet another version of “same crap, different day.”

As noted, there are significant differences between the bill the Senate passed last night and the bill the House of Representatives passed last month. Because of that, and because the GOP leadership in the House apparently doesn’t believe that the Senate bill could pass the House in its present form, the two chambers will now move forward with a conference committee composed of members from both parties in both chambers. The job of that committee will be come up with a bill that can pass both chambers even if only on a party-line vote. After that, the bill they agree on will have to pass both the House and the Senate in exactly the same form before it can be sent to the President’s desk. While there are still some hurdles in that process that will have to be overcome, it seems likely at this point that it ultimately will pass and that we’ll get the tax cuts the GOP wants before it heads into the midterm elections.

 

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    Republicans are doing all of this without need of a Democratic vote.
    Republicans are, for now, running the table.
    Unless the 2018 mid-terms flip the House or the Senate, Democrats are helpless roadkill.

    Also, I’d like to remind everyone that in the 2016 election, Trump was the lesser of two evils, right?

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  2. grumpy realist says:

    Guess we really didn’t learn anything from what happened in Kansas, did we?

    Given that this tax fiasco is a whack on higher education, I’m sure the Chinese and the Russians must be grinning ear to ear.

    I suspect the next move will be to argue, in light of the increased deficit that these tax cuts will generate, that we have to get rid of Social Security and Medicare.

    What happened? We used to be a relatively intelligent group of people!

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  3. Modulo Myself says:

    Simplifying the tax code is just a stupid issue put out there by the rich and repeated by the credulous. The only people for whom taxes are complicated are the rich and corporations, and they generally pay professionals to do it for them. The whole thing is a fraud designed to break the country into a giant polluted Kansas/Louisiana Christian s–hole filled with hate for the elites on the coast who have decent lives.

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  4. Modulo Myself says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Wait till Trump voters see their side of the tax cut. Just a hunch–they aren’t going to be blaming Trump or the GOP. It’s going to be minorities and the less powerful.

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  5. Scott F. says:

    Democrats need to ignore the deficit increase in their line of attack against the Republicans and their tax bill going into next year’s elections. If being hypocrites about sexual predations isn’t going to hurt them with their voters, certainly being hypocrites about the dangers of the federal debt isn’t going to hurt them either.

    Instead, Democrats have to go after the class warfare this bill represents as another redistribution of the wealth in this country upward. This bill will only exacerbate income inequality which is reaching unsustainable levels for a civil society. And it further empowers the donor class, removing the last shreds of pretense that we have a functioning democracy in this country and not an oligarchy.

    That’s the Dems message – they need to stick to it with laser focus.

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  6. becca says:

    I assume the GOP has found even more nefarious ways to stay in power than just outright voter suppression. In a fair election, this obvious sacrifice of the 99% on the altar of the Donor Gods would mean electoral suicide.

    And the GOP knows that, I’m sure.

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  7. CSK says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The one person whom they won’t blame is Trump, as you say. But it wont be just minorities and the less powerful whom they do blame. It will be everyone other than Trump and themselves.

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  8. James Pearce says:

    @Scott F.:

    That’s the Dems message – they need to stick to it with laser focus.

    It’s not a bad message, but it’s almost guaranteed that Dems won’t “stick to it with laser focus.” We’ll need new Dems.

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  9. Gustopher says:

    Republican Senators really don’t seem to want to do their jobs — the vast majority are happy to just vote for whatever their leaders tell them, without taking the time to read or understand it.

    Seems like a pretty easy gig.

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  10. Tyrell says:

    I will reserve opinions, comments, predictions about this bill until I have read and studied it. I don’t see how there can be tax reform without getting into monetary policy.

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  11. Modulo Myself says:

    @Scott F.:

    The Dems need to make a clean break with their tendency to believe the good faith of their opponents. It’s not like the rich have been getting hard. And it’s not as if the Democrats are anti-money or even greed. They have to really portray the GOP’s donors as pathological losers, more repressed and pathetic than anything. I mean, anyone who inherits Koch-levels of money and decides to spend to fund libertarian BS should never have been born.

    And they also need to eat some s–t of their own. I liked Obama, but they need to him to say looking back it was a mistake to even attempt to reason with these people. But they need to point out that by not caring about comity or about the feelings of the sad GOP minions they can do a great deal. Propose single payer and claim that Obama should have bailed out homeowners after 2008. Who cares about the price tag? At least it’s something real for real humans. And when Ted Cruz starts going off about that don’t call him a hypocrite–call him a whore who is wiping off the Koch and Trump come from his ugly face, and then insinuate that he would pimp his daughter for a tax cut. When the nannies talk about decency, ask the bitches about their safe spaces.

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  12. michael reynolds says:

    @Tyrell:

    This is not tax reform. This is Republicans straining desperately to cook up an excuse to make the rich richer. They believe it will trickle down, by which they mean that giving billionaires more money will result in them ‘trickling down’ campaign money on Republicans. I suspect most of them know perfectly well that this will do nothing good for the economy or for the American people.

    The rich are to get richer, the working class gets screwed blue. That’s all you need to know.

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  13. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:

    Gee, I thought your message for Democrats was to get used to male domination and knock off all this sexual harassment stuff. At least that was it a few days ago. Of course you also want us to talk less about race, and stop defending transgender people.

    You seem to think that the only salvation for Democrats is to abandon their established voter bases and spend more time appealing to you and other white males like you. You know, right after we all accept the fact that you are the natural rulers and will remain such forever.

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  14. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m giving up on trying to point out to people-who-are-about-to-do-a-really-dumb-thing that they’re About To Do A Really Dumb Thing. Let them put all their money into Bitcoin; I don’t care. They’ll learn the hard way that chances are when you think you can operate on the Bigger Fool Theory, the Bigger Fool will end up being you.

    And I’m not going to spend money by donating to political organizations, no matter how good the cause. It just adds fuel to the spinning of the hamster wheel. Not worth it.

    And for our STEM students, start learning Chinese, guys. Only place you’ll be able to find employment in ten years.

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  15. Gustopher says:

    @grumpy realist:

    And for our STEM students, start learning Chinese, guys. Only place you’ll be able to find employment in ten years.

    Oh, don’t be so melodramatic — there won’t be STEM students.

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  16. gVOR08 says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The whole thing is a fraud designed to break the country into a giant polluted Kansas/Louisiana Christian s–hole filled with hate for the elites on the coast who have decent lives.

    No. There’s a lot of stuff in there targeting blue states. They don’t want to spit the country. They want to turn the whole country into Kansas.

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  17. michael reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I still give money, and I’ll give you a good example. A group of kidlit authors set out to raise 100k. We raised 250k, (about 5% of that was me) and put it into state and local races. We were major donors supporting the woman who flipped the Washington State Senate to blue, and we were serious backers of 10 non-incumbent Democrats for the Virginia state leg and won 9 out of 10 of those races, with the 10th still in a recount. Depending on the outcome in that race we may have helped to flip Virginia.

    If you want bang for your buck spend at the state level. Take state legislatures and governorships, get control of redistricting, build a farm team and workshop the issues at the grass roots level. That’s where my money will go, aside from helping to push the last few California Republicans into oblivion.

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  18. Hal_10000 says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The only people for whom taxes are complicated are the rich and corporations, and they generally pay professionals to do it for them.

    Yeees. This is called “deadweight loss”. It’s the economy-crushing effect of having corporations spending their time gaming the tax system instead of, you know, doing business. It’s hard to estimate, but most economists think you’re talking hundreds of billions. But the GOP plan does not fix that at all. It just cuts the rate. This was their chance to do it — to simplify the corporate tax system. And they completely blew it.

    The more I think about it, the more I’m utterly disgusted by what I saw last night. The tax system has a giant effect on the economy and the GOP passed a bill like they were improvising an SNL sketch. It blows out the deficit — even more than $1.5 trillion if future Congresses refuse to raise taxes on the middle class. It has all kinds of nasty secondary provisions, such as throwing millions out of the health insurance markets. Honestly, I think it sets the country on a course to total fiscal ruin. Even if the Democrats take power back, they won’t raise taxes as much as we need to cover this mess. And they want to increase spending. Trillion dollar deficits are coming back.

    Hell, they couldn’t even back Rubio’s attempt to reduce the corporate tax cut by a small percentage in order to help families with children. Remember families with children? How the GOP is supposed to be all about that? Now they’re not only punishing families, they’re saddling those children with oceans of debt.

    To hell with them. Last night really drove it home for me: this is the Party of Trump. Trump is fiscally irresponsible, utterly devoid of any sense of responsibility and cares nothing for anyone other than himself. And that is now a description of the GOP. All the principled conservatives are leaving. This libertarian/conservative was already across the street. Now I’m burning the bridge.

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  19. Stormy Dragon says:

    I will support #TaxReform bill after securing language to eliminate an $85 billion budget gimmick as well as commitment from the administration & #Senate leadership to advance growth-oriented legislative solution to enact fair & permanent protections for #DACA recipients pic.twitter.com/MGbWX7JrPq— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) December 1, 2017

    So for nothing then?

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  20. Senyordave says:

    Democrats need to re-brand as the party that will support and grow the middle class. Minorities and the poor have to stay as part of their core constituency. If someone voted for Trump because they really thought he cared about the WWC, I don’t think they can reached efficiently. there is only so much money available for campaigns, and the coal miners in central Ohio who really believed Trump was going to bring back coal might be reached, but not without spending serious money. Concentrate funds on voter registration, candidate development. keep the class warfare to a minimum, but start having ads about the long term effects of the tax bill, especially medicare cuts. REMIND people that social security and medicare are the backbone of the middle class in this country.

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  21. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Welcome to the club. Fiscally, I should be a Republican, but the party doesn’t (and hasn’t for decades) represent anything remotely resembling fiscal sanity.

    Democrats do like to spend money, no argument, but they’re at least cognizant of the need to concurrently raise taxes when they do.

    A functional government honestly requires both voices – a principled Democratic position advocating the welfare of the public and a principled Republican / conservative position advocating fiscal responsibility. Compromise between the two should produce good policy restrained within the bounds of fiscal reality.

    I have to agree with you – if this abortion actually comes out of reconciliation and gets signed in its current form, we won’t be able to recover from it. They might as well have called it the Lights Out Plan.

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  22. grumpy realist says:

    Charles Pierce is PISSED.

    As he points out, this isn’t something to blame on Trump–the Republicans would have been doing this no matter which Republican was POTUS.

    Stampede off the cliff, guys. This is the US’s equivalent of Brexit. Something really, really stupid which will end up trashing the US economy for many years.

    (I wonder if any of the rich guys behind this avalanche of greed realize that if the peasants really get to a point where they have nothing to lose….they have nothing to lose.)

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  23. Modulo Myself says:

    It’s the economy-crushing effect of having corporations spending their time gaming the tax system instead of, you know, doing business.

    Sure, but one of the crazy (to me) beliefs here is that business does not equal gaming the system. Everything is a system. Humans love to play games. It will not stop because of erasing or changing a tax system. You can have better or worse states in which business is conducted. Perhaps our tax system could be better or more efficient. Maybe it will never be. But there’s a totally childlike belief here in capitalism’s real purity that is so f—ing odd, like these massive multinational entities operate based on the logic of an Ayn Rand thought experiment.

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  24. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    I found it particularly amusing that they proposed some sort of reduction on the tax on repatriated foreign profits.

    What were they smoking?

    The only thing that is going to motivate, say, Apple to repatriate foreign profits is a duplication of the rate they already pay on those profits, which is essentially zero, and even that isn’t much of an incentive because they still have zero incentive to invest one dime into the US manufacturing base. They might buy back some shares, but even that is a limited option.

    Telling me you’re going to cut a deal which allows me to only pay X in taxes instead of 2X when I bring my otherwise US tax free profits back to the US is lunacy, and I’m going to point that out to you, laughing my ass off, as I have you thrown out of the building for wasting my time.

    These people really do live in a fantasy world of their own creation.

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  25. John430 says:

    (Democrats), who said it was impossible — and irresponsible — for lawmakers to read and digest a significant piece of legislation in such a short period of time.

    (Sigh) So much idiotic protesting and so little time…“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” –Nancy Pelosi, in re: Obamacare 2010.

    Mataconis’s analysis omits a few key items: Nearly doubles the standard deduction. The deduction for singles increases to $12,000 from $6,350 currently; and it raises it for married couples filing jointly to $24,000 from $12,700.

    Expands the child tax credit: The Senate GOP bill increases the child tax credit to $2,000 per child, up from $1,000 today.

    Doug also fails to note the LLC and Sub Chapter S effects of pass-through income. The House bill drops the tax rate from 39% to 25%, the Senate bill would let most pass-throughs deduct 17.4% of their income. Just about all of America’s small businesses will benefit. E.g. neighborhood shops, restaurants, services, etc.

    It’s a decent tax bill. Not a great tax bill, mind you. They should have gone to a flat tax model.

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  26. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @John430:

    Mataconis’s analysis omits a few key items:

    So does yours. While nearly doubling the standard deduction, the bill also eliminates personal exemptions.

    So, for a family of three, it’s a wash, and they’re more than likely no longer going to be able to itemize because the standard deduction threshold on which itemization is predicated just doubled.

    So no more exemptions, no more claiming their mortgage, no more claiming state and local income taxes, no more claiming medical expenses.

    Yea, I tell you, I can’y imagine why they won’t be groveling at the GOP’s feet over this “gift”.

    Oh yea, and your small businesses? Their customers are about to get screwed to the floorboards, so good luck with that benefit …

    They should have gone to a flat tax model.

    I’ve always somewhat considered you to be a partisan moron. Thanks for just confirming that belief.

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  27. gVOR08 says:

    @John430: You’re right. With the tax bill McConnell did everything they complain the Ds did to pass O’care.

    The difference is that they lied about O’care passage. They claim the Ds passed the ACA in a rush with no input from across the aisle. In fact it took a year or more, with IIRC a hundred or so hearings, and several deals with Rs that the Rs reneged on. Read the context of Pelosi’s remark sometime and quit repeating stupid RW BS. I don’t recall that O’care was passed in the form of scanned PDFs sent with handwritten changes from lobbying shops an hour or two before the vote.

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  28. Stormy Dragon says:

    @John430:

    Nearly doubles the standard deduction.

    Nearly all of which is offset by eliminating the personal exemption ($4,150 for 2018).

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  29. michael reynolds says:

    @John430:

    My wife and I paid ~$400,000 in federal taxes last year. How much of that do you want to pick up? Because that’s the flat tax: you pay more, I pay less.

    You like a ‘flat tax’ because you like ‘simple’ and you’re too simple yourself to manage the basic math. You let me know how much of my tax bill you’re going to want to pay.

    Oh, is the answer ‘none?’ Then you don’t want a flat tax, you want progressive taxation which (surprise!) is the Democratic position.

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  30. Moosebreath says:

    @John430:

    “So much idiotic protesting and so little time…“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” –Nancy Pelosi, in re: Obamacare 2010.”

    You are right. That is idiotic protesting. As a homework assignment, look up how many public hearings were held on Obamacare before it was passed, compared to how many were held on this tax bill class warfare on behalf of the upper class bill. I’ll even spot you a cite on what the number of hearings on Obamacare was.

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  31. michael reynolds says:

    We are laying a trillion dollars in debt on our kids, and accelerating the rise of the oligarchy and deepening the serfdom of the little people, and the little people cry, “Hooray!”

    Americans are just too fwcking stupid to even vote their own narrow interests. They are actually so fwcking stupid they will vote to hurt themselves and their children. It’s amazing.

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  32. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    A trillion at a minimum. That figure presupposes that some future Congress will be willing to allow these temporary reductions in middle class nominal rates to terminate.

    In reality, they probably won’t. They run around with their hair on fire trying to avoid a tax increase, and then the debt will balloon even further.

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  33. grumpy realist says:

    @John430: The removal of a heck of a lot of the personal tax exemptions (including state taxes) means I will end up paying MORE.

    Some tax break!

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  34. gVOR08 says:

    @John430: @michael reynolds:
    Flat tax plans are generally a joke because Malcom Forbes or whoever always sell them with rates well under revenue neutral. Also note that our “progressive” income tax only works up to a point. Remember the Buffett rule? For high incomes tax evasion, legal and not, makes the high end actually regressive.

    Years ago J. K. Galbraith said the Democrats should kill the income tax and replace it with a flat tax or VAT. His reasons were 1) it could get the government more money, which it needs, 2) economists always prefer consumption taxes, and most importantly, 3) much of Republican politics is fueled by resentment over the progressive income tax. Removing it would largely defund the GOPs.

    I can see the Dems running on “real tax reform”. Retain an income tax, personal and business, but at a lower and more or less flat rate. Over some threshold total income: business, pass thru, personal, capital gains, inheritance, married/single, any income is taxed at x%,. With x maybe < 10. And GE pays x, not their current zero, or net refund. Add a VAT big enough to make the whole thing revenue neutral, or maybe a little revenue positive. Instead of progressive taxes, do what most of the world does and provide direct subsidies to lower income households. I’d argue for a Tobin tax and a Piketty style wealth tax. A fairly long term, well thought out transition plan would be needed, but this is the sort of thing liberal think tanks do, as opposed to Republican infrastructure.

    Please don’t jump on the details here. This is a spitball. The point is that there are better ways to do taxes and the Dems can and should run on real tax reform.

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  35. Kylopod says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Last night really drove it home for me: this is the Party of Trump.

    I agreed with everything you said up to this line. The tax bill had very little to do with Trump. He had hardly any input in writing it, and if anything he probably decreased its likelihood of passing (I have little doubt that he’s almost singlehandedly responsible for losing Corker’s vote). Under a President Rubio or Cruz or Pence, we’d probably have seen at least marginally more competent governance. And certainly we’d be spared the constant reality-show antics of the current president. But legislatively, the results would not be much different, if at all. They’d still have passed a massive tax bill for rich people that blows up the deficit, and places the burden on the backs of the middle class. That’s what the GOP is, that’s what they do, that’s what they stand for, and if you didn’t notice that before, you weren’t paying attention.

    Just about everything that was supposed to be unorthodox about Trump has either been abandoned or stalled, from trade to infrastructure to LGBT to the border fence. That’s because he has no idea to take control of the party’s agenda in Congress, so he goes back to what he’s built his entire career around: stamping his name on other people’s achievements. He’s a figurehead. He’s Joffrey from Game of Thrones: a frothing-at-the-mouth maniac, but also a sniveling brat who has no idea how to run the country and so ends up being little more than a headache for the people who truly are running things.

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  36. al-Ameda says:

    I’m of the opinion that If you stripped out of this bill everything but the reduction in the Corporate Tax rate, and perhaps included a few changes to Sarbanes-Oxley, and incentives for domestic employment – you might have a solid average bill.

    As it is, this is a massive reallocation of tax resources to the wealthiest Americans.

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  37. Ratufa says:

    @Scott F.:

    Democrats need to ignore the deficit increase in their line of attack

    I don’t think Democrats should completely ignore the deficit angle. They could point out that the deficit increase will make it harder for the government to pay its Social Security and Medicaid obligations. There are reports the GOP is planning on making changes to those programs after the tax bill is passed, which would fit in nicely with that line of attack.

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  38. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds:

    and we were serious backers of 10 non-incumbent Democrats for the Virginia state leg and won 9 out of 10 of those races, with the 10th still in a recount. Depending on the outcome in that race we may have helped to flip Virginia.

    You have this Virginian’s deepest gratitude.

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  39. Hal_10000 says:

    @Kylopod:

    I disagree for two reasons.

    1) The party has clearly realigned its philosophy with Trumpism. Anti-trade, anti-legal-immigration, anti-criminal justice reform. The tax reform the GOP was talking about last year would have been much more sensible. You can see that in things like the Rubio-Lee proposal. But they’ve no completely sold out to having to have something to tweet about. Contrast it against the Bush tax cut. It might have been a bad idea, but it at least had some sense to it.

    2) Complex legislation, like a tax cut, is HARD to pass. It’s hard because even within one party you have different factions who want different things. Traditionally, it is up to Congressional leaders to coral those different factions and put together a bill that they can all support. But this takes time. And it, frankly, takes tools like earmarks which are no longer available. Having the President screaming that we needed a tax cut immediately meant the GOP had to cobble together this Frankenstein-like thing without any real thought.

    But also, because Congress has lost its ability to lead, that duty has, for better or worse, fallen to the President. Look at Obamacare. There were many factions within the Dem tent — people who wanted single payer, people who wanted managed care, people who wanted to break the employment-insurance connection. For all its flaws, it passed because Obama made it pass. He knew the bill inside and out and he, from a position outside Congress, could make compromises and cajole members of his party into supporting it. Contrast that against Trump, who has no idea what’s in the bill, is incapable of making deals and whose pledge of campaign support means less than nothing.

    This is what the GOP has become: a party of idiot lemmings led by a deranged hamster.

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  40. Turgid Jacobian says:

    @grumpy realist:

    “Given that this tax fiasco is a whack on higher education, I’m sure the Chinese and the Russians must be grinning ear to ear.”

    This is quite true. Not just higher education. Primary and secondary ed, too.

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  41. DrDaveT says:

    This bill is going to reduce my taxes considerably. That, all by itself, reveals it to be a stupid piece of tripe, because my marginal income doesn’t trickle down to anyone, except in the form of charitable deductions. I can assure you that America would be much better off collecting $1 from me and spending it on useful stuff than in allowing me to spend an extra dime in charity.

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  42. An Interested Party says:

    And to think this monstrosity is called ‘The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”…considering the time of year it is right now, they would have been more accurate to call it “The Ebenezer Scrooge Act”…sadly, there are no Christmas ghosts to change this disgusting sham…

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  43. Kylopod says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Contrast it against the Bush tax cut. It might have been a bad idea, but it at least had some sense to it.

    The essence of the Bush tax cuts was that they did little more than cut taxes, and paid for them by massively increasing the deficit and making them temporary in order to pass the Senate’s budget rules for reconciliation. A lot in the party has changed since then, but in terms of their increasing willingness to raise taxes on the middle class and cut the social safety net, whatever that is, it ain’t Trumpism; if anything it’s the exact sort of thing Candidate Trump was the boldest about promising not to do and that helped give him his (unearned) reputation as a “populist.” And I can pretty much guarantee you that Trump’s description of the bill in the coming days will bear absolutely no resemblance to what’s in it; he’ll just go around claiming it’s the hugest, massivest tax break for the middle class in the history of humankind, which is more or less what he’s been saying thus far.

    Having the President screaming that we needed a tax cut immediately meant the GOP had to cobble together this Frankenstein-like thing without any real thought.

    I’m sure that didn’t help, but the larger problem the GOP faced was that they were heading into a midterm year with a tax bill that was inevitably going to be unpopular if it bore any resemblance to current GOP priorities.

    Look at Obamacare. There were many factions within the Dem tent — people who wanted single payer, people who wanted managed care, people who wanted to break the employment-insurance connection.

    Most of that had been more or less resolved long before Obama became president. The plans of candidates Obama, Hillary, and Edwards in 2008 differed in important details, and the plan Obama ran on differed from the one he passed as president–particularly with regard to the public option and the individual mandate. But the basic outline was the same: they were all proposals to build on the existing insurance system to expand coverage mostly through subsidies, tax credits, and an expansion of Medicaid. Many liberals would have preferred single-payer, but it wasn’t on the table, and really hadn’t been since the 1970s. Even Paul Krugman more or less endorsed this piecemeal approach in 2007, arguing that it was the most progressive plan that had a chance of passing should Dems gain unified control of government in 2009.

    For all its flaws, it passed because Obama made it pass. He knew the bill inside and out and he, from a position outside Congress, could make compromises and cajole members of his party into supporting it.

    Probably Obama’s biggest contribution was deciding to pursue comprehensive health-care reform at all. The financial crisis convinced top advisors that he should scrap the project, but he ignored them and went through with it. I have my doubts a President Hillary would have, given her tendency toward caution and her own negative experience with a similar bill in the ’90s.

    Contrast that against Trump, who has no idea what’s in the bill, is incapable of making deals and whose pledge of campaign support means less than nothing.

    But the end result is that it’s not Trump’s bill–it’s Congress’s bill. Which basically means it’s a bill of the GOP establishment. That’s precisely my point.

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  44. Mikey says:

    Here’s what Forbes–hardly a bastion of liberal thought–has to say about this disastrous tax scheme:

    GOP Tax Bill Is The End Of All Economic Sanity In Washington

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  45. Barry says:

    @Hal_10000: “This was their chance to do it — to simplify the corporate tax system. And they completely blew it.”

    Why would they want simplification? They undoubtedly benefit from the complexity, and paid for most of it. That way, they can hide the real rate.

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  46. Barry says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “..a principled Republican / conservative position advocating fiscal responsibility. ”

    That hasn’t existed since, …. – Eisenhower?

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  47. Barry says:
  48. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: Translated from Tyrellese–

    Derp derp higgledy-piggledy something something.

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  49. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @John430: Sorry, but with the removal of the personal exemption, I only break even as I deducted over 10,000 total last year total. But thanks for trying.

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  50. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Hal_10000:

    1) The party has clearly realigned its philosophy with Trumpism. Anti-trade, anti-legal-immigration, anti-criminal justice reform. The tax reform the GOP was talking about last year would have been much more sensible. You can see that in things like the Rubio-Lee proposal.

    But talking about things that would be more sensible and then proposing crap has been part of the GOP playbook for since way before Trump. The initial response to Obamacare vis a vis what they brought from behind the curtain is merely a current example. Prescription drug lack of a plan for seniors on Medicare was another. War in Iraq is one on the foreign policy side, war on “terrah” yet another.

    I appreciate your efforts to convince… well… yourself that the GOP is the victim, but you’re wrong. You have it backwards–the GOP didn’t align with Trumpism; Trumpism was created to align with the GOP.

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  51. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: Yes, but be honest–your tax cut is going to “trickle down” in the form of a massive increase in your charitable contributions based on your thankfulness for the extra money and desire to do good things for the nation if only you had more of your own money back. Right? 😎

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  52. JohnMcC says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: Well, there was a delightful hint of confusion between monetary and fiscal policy. Which I completely understand since it’s one of those thing I too constantly have to keep straight. But in Ty’s case promised wonderful future entries.

    Read that bill, my friend Tyrell! Read it quick and tell us what you think. Please.

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  53. Mikey says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    So, for a family of three, it’s a wash, and they’re more than likely no longer going to be able to itemize because the standard deduction threshold on which itemization is predicated just doubled.

    If your family is larger than three, you’re massively screwed because you’ll be paying income tax on $4K or $8K more, and another $4K tacked on for each additional kid, because even with the doubling of the standard deduction, you lose all the personal exemptions. Once you get bigger than a family of three, the loss of personal exemption costs you more than what you “save” through the doubling of the standard deduction.

    Or maybe you’ve got two kids and you’re claiming your elderly parent with Alzheimer’s as a dependent because you’re providing their care. There’s another $4K personal exemption you won’t be able to claim. Nor will you be able to deduct the ginormous medical expenses a parent with dementia incurs (as I can attest to personally, my late father having suffered from that soul-destroying illness).

    But chin up, if you own a private jet, you can deduct the costs of maintenance and what you pay the pilot. Hooray!

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  54. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Barry:

    Nope. Honestly, there were Republicans sitting in Congress for whom I would have voted as late as the middle 1990s. Alan Simpson is a good example. Jim Ramstad is another.

    The party, granted, had been toying with lunacy as early as the 1970s by getting into bed with the bible beaters, but that phenomenon was somewhat restricted to the Southern states and was just a continuation of the same evils they represented when they voted Democrat.

    The party really began to go off the deep end beginning with the 1994 midterms. It has been a downhill trend / trainwreck ever since. It now represents nothing from its traditional roots which I value and pretty much everything I despise.

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  55. Kari Q says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    A trillion at a minimum. That figure presupposes that some future Congress will be willing to allow these temporary reductions in middle class nominal rates to terminate.

    My money has it that they are planning on “solving” the deficit problem by cutting Medicare and Social Security. (I know that Social Security funding is separate from the rest of the budget, so in theory they shouldn’t be able to do this. In practice, I don’t think they care).

    They will sell this to their followers by arguing that there is no choice, the deficit is huge, the budget has to be balanced, etc. And they will blame Obamacare for creating the problem.

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  56. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @JohnMcC: You’re assuming that Tyrell has reading abilities adequate to the task. In the world in which I was a teacher for 20-some years, what he said actually means “I have no capacity to comment intelligently on this question and probably will not ever acquire it.”

    On the other hand, I may be more cynical than you.

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  57. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Kari Q:

    My money has it that they are planning on “solving” the deficit problem by cutting Medicare and Social Security

    Bingo !!! Winner Winner

    They don’t have to change the SS funding rules, just the underlying principles of eligibility, etc.
    As far as Medicare is concerned, Congress need only change the cost conversion factor, and doctors will abandon medicare as they can’t afford to stay in practice.

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  58. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: Remember, this is a 700+ page document written in Bureaucratese–a language native to no part of the real world and designed, according to Noam Chomsky, “to create the illusion of communication where no communication has actually taken place.”

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  59. gVOR08 says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Having the President screaming that we needed a tax cut immediately meant the GOP had to cobble together this Frankenstein-like thing without any real thought.

    Aside from signing it, if they manage to get their act together enough to pass a reconciliation bill, Trump has little to do with this. They’re rushing because there’s a deadline of the end of the year for the 50 vote reconciliation trick to work, and they wasted most of the calendar failing to repeal Obamacare. Also, by rushing it they can try to beat CBO and press scrutiny. They have a much better chance of passing this POS if no one gets a good look at it.

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