I know Paul Ryan. Before he became Speaker of the House, we shared flights to and from the Capitol. We’ve sat through countless hearings and markups together. Despite our political differences, we respected each other.
But now, as the GOP’s dangerous tax plan is on the verge of passing the Senate, it’s time to take off the gloves and hold him and the president to task for their malicious proposal.
After nearly 10 years serving with Speaker Ryan on the Budget Committee, I learned to decipher the coded discourse he uses when discussing tax policy. I learned to see past his doublespeak and see his policies for what they are: Wall Street over Main Street politics. Put simply, I’m fluent in Ryan.
So, here are the facts that he and the president don’t want you to know, devoid of that classic Ryan polish, magic asterisks, and fuzzy math…
The tax proposal before the Senate raises taxes on those earning as little as $10,000 a year, cuts Medicare and Medicaid, and adds another $1.5 trillion to the national debt to pave the way for huge corporate tax cuts. Not only will it create massive deficits, but it fails to stimulate any meaningful economic growth. Sadly, Speaker Ryan’s shiny veneer on his plan – meant to evoke images of shared wealth among the middle class – is as empty as Donald Trump’s health care promise that “everybody's got to be covered.”
Beyond the deficit, there are numerous opportunity costs that Americans need to consider. Elimination of middle-class deductions will not be offset by doubling the standard exemption, effectively raising taxes on families, especially for families with more than two children. Changes and cuts to health programs like Medicare and Medicaid will make our population poorer and sicker. Tax on college endowments and interest on student loans will make college less affordable for students. Taxing state and local taxes will devalue the homes of countless Americans and make it harder and more expensive for states to provide services for their people. The huge deficits this bill creates will likely preclude the country from investing in badly needed new infrastructure and nearly ensure future fiscal crises and government shutdowns.
It’s difficult to understand why Congress would want to treat teachers buying pens and paper for their students differently than businesses buying the very same pens and paper. It’s hard to fathom why it makes sense to allow deductions for private school tuition but to no longer allow students to deduct the cost of student loans. It’s simply illogical that these GOP proposals copy S-corporation loopholes that proved so disastrous when tried by Kansas that Republicans in that state had to reverse their own tax plan.
Tax reform that closes loopholes and promotes fairness and prosperity for all is long overdue, but the bill that passed the House on a partisan vote and the Senate proposal are not reform. In fact, the two bills deform and complicate the Internal Revenue Code making it less fair, less efficient, and increases income inequality.
Despite this bleak reality, Republicans are attempting to convince Americans to support this plan claiming that trickle-down tax cuts pay for themselves and that working people will get a huge pay increase as a result. These assertions have been so thoroughly debunked by mainstream economists and studies that at this point they are just flat out lies. In fact, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have already indicated their intent to distribute tax cuts to their shareholders, not workers.
A recent survey of economists overwhelmingly came to the conclusion the GOP tax plan would not produce significant GDP gains, but would substantially increase the national debt. Of course anyone that lived through the Bush tax cuts in 2000 will not only remember these GOP claims but also, and more importantly, that the results never lived up to the hype. The 2000 tax cuts didn’t pay for themselves as the national debt piled up, they didn’t produce the promised economic growth, and they certainly didn’t trickle down to workers in the form of a big wage increase. Republicans are asking Americans to ignore all history and evidence to believe that this time will be different.
We have been down this road before. We know that trickle down hasn’t worked, doesn’t work, and won’t work. Our country has the wealth inequality and deficits to prove it.
I voted against this bill because it hurts middle-class workers, hurts the poor, hurts working mothers, hurts students, hurts universities, hurts healthcare, hurts state and local governments, and will ensure the government won’t have the funds to fix our badly outdated infrastructure nor meet any other number of urgent priorities. There is not an urgent problem that should be properly addressed that the GOP plan does not make worse.
Our country desperately needs real tax reform, but all Speaker Ryan and the GOP are trying to sell us is more crony capitalism and donor welfare labeled as “reform.” It is high time we see past these shallow promises. The American people deserve better from Congress.