NYT Opinion: The tax bill deserves to die

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David Leonhardt Op-Ed columnist

A New York Times Op Editorial written by:|
David Leonhardt

The big health care bills in Congress this year — the ones that failed — were probably the worst pieces of major legislation that I’ve seen. They would have harmed millions of Americans and had virtually no redeeming features. The tax bill unveiled by House leaders is a bit different.

It does have some good ideas lurking in it, like reduced tax breaks for second homes and sports stadiums. Yet the full picture ends up being depressingly similar to what it was on health care. This is a hastily compiled bill — lacking the thoughtfulness of the Reagan tax reform, for example — and its main purpose is to benefit the wealthy.

It would harm many middle-class and low-income families in the short term and the vast majority of families in the long term. Don’t be fooled by anyone who emphasizes the bill’s modest middle-class benefits in its early years. (I explained the bait-and-switch in my column last week.) The next few weeks will be important.

Republican leaders have signaled that they will try to rush through a bill. They know it is already unpopular — as many polls, including a new one this morning from ABC and The Washington Post, show — and it’s likely to become more unpopular as it receives more attention. Keep your eye out in particular for the independent evaluations of how the bill will affect different income groups — the Tax Policy Center will probably release one sometime soon.

These evaluations provide some accountability on politicians’ claims. In the meantime, Jim Tankersley of The Times writes, “The myriad changes in the code would actually raise taxes on nearly 13 million tax filers who earn $100,000 a year or less, according to preliminary calculations using the open-source economic modeling software TaxBrain.” I also recommend the initial analyses from Lily Batchelder of N.Y.U. Law, Michael Linden of The Hub Project, Eric Levitz of New York magazine, and Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center. Other issues to watch:

• There is some early opposition from industry-group leaders who think the bill would hurt their members, like the National Federation of Independent Business, an influential small-business lobby, and the National Association of Home Builders.

Even if you don’t agree with all of their specific objections (and I don’t), their opposition is still welcome, because the overall bill is so dreadful.

• The bill includes a mean-spirited penalty for immigrant families. It would take away the child tax credit from almost 3 million children who are American citizens but whose parents are not. Let me repeat that: The bill would take a tax benefit away from children who are American citizens.

It does so, notes Jacob Leibenluft, by punishing families who file their taxes using an Individual Tax Identification Number rather than a Social Security number. The bill also hurts “Dreamers” — people who entered this country illegally when they were small children — in a couple of different ways.

• The initial reaction from the Senate was mixed, which is somewhat encouraging. Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican, says he is worried about the large deficit increase that the bill would cause. Senator Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican, says the same. If three Republican senators oppose the bill, it probably can’t pass.

The bill may also violate a Senate rule known as the “Byrd rule,” because it would cause long-term deficits to rise. The Democrats’ future. Above, I mentioned a tax analysis by Eric Levitz; I also recommend his op-ed on Democratic politics in yesterday’s Times. His message isn’t a simple one, because it has parts that may be hard to hear for both the left and center-left.

Levitz argues that Democrats should tamp down their emphasis on “identity politics” while offering more muscularly left-wing economic policies. The full Opinion report from The Times follows, including Anna Sauerbrey on the next Angela Merkel.

You can read more at NY Times.com Opinion Section.

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I’m also including a link to my own story “A Real Simple Tax Plan” that’s fair to EVERYONE… That’s right: Everyone! Feel free to fast forward to the Chart of proposed Income Tax Brackets.


Left-Handed Leftist with idealistic views. I see the world the way it truly is, without rose-colored glasses, and media disinformation. Read between the lines.

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