Advent is the season when Christians begin preparations for the journey that will lead to the manger. The Republicans are excited because they have reached agreement on the gifts they plan to offer the infant Jesus: tax cuts. 

At a rally promoting the GOP’s “Tax Cuts and Jobs” bill, President Trump declared he most wanted to help the people who work “in the mailrooms and machine shops; the plumbers, carpenters, cops, teachers, truck drivers and pipe-fitters.”

Jesus smiles. For did he not say, “whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me”?

Clearly, Trump’s determination to do good is what must have prompted Rev. Franklin Graham to declare: “Never in my lifetime have we had a @POTUS willing to take such a strong outspoken stand for the Christian faith like @realDonaldTrump. We need to get behind him with our prayers.”

US Capitol East side. 12 june 2016

Passionate intensity: Congress and the president want tax cuts for only the rich.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

GOP senators did. Armed with their Christian values, they forced their feverishly cobbled together “tax cuts and jobs” bill through in the dead of night.

The bill that Sen. Bernie Sanders called “a moral abomination” is filled with many kindnesses:

  • It promises, according to GOP leaders like Paul Ryan, to lead to cuts to Medicare, which presumably many plumbers, carpenters, cops, teachers, truck drivers and pipe-fitters need to stay alive.
  • It strips health care from 13 million people over the next 10 years. But if you don’t have health insurance, this bill at one point offered a way out by lowering taxes on alcohol, thereby making it cheaper to drink yourself to death. Perhaps it still does.   
  • It tried to go after low-income tax dodgers by forcing them to pay taxes on gift cards from their employers. This was obviously necessary to recoup the revenue lost from eliminating the estate tax on America’s wealthiest households. 
  • This bill also began by trying to punish teachers. Apparently GOP legislators thought it would be a good idea to deny them the ability to claim personal funds used to buy school supplies as a tax deduction. They appear to have come to their senses on that. For now.
  • This Senate idea initially complemented the House plan to tax graduate students on the tuition relief they get from teaching or working as research assistants. Together, those initiatives must have been designed to Make America Great Again by taxing those to whom we entrust the education of our children, and forcing graduate students to drop out, or be crushed by debt.

Again, as the bill shuttled between House and Senate, these initiatives passed into oblivion, perhaps to be resurrected when the GOP rediscovers that further enriching millionaires and billionaires is not good for the national debt.

This bill also allows financial institutions to transfer funds to overseas subsidiaries to lessen their tax burden. This was in recognition perhaps of the exemplary behavior of banks like Wells Fargo who were really, really sorry about scamming thousands.

Slouching Toward Bethlehem

POTUS has waxed lyrical about “big, beautiful tax cuts.” Clearly they were needed as post-tax corporate profits reached record-high levels and the “top 1 percent’s share of total income is higher than any time in the second half of the 20th century,” as reported in the Atlantic.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was able to look straight at the camera and declare:

“For all those millions of men and women in America who are living paycheck to paycheck, who are struggling to get ahead, help is on the way.”

Really?

And for good measure, the bill authorizes drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Joint Committee on Taxation does not think so. The JCT warns that after 2025 when individual income tax provisions are set to expire, households with incomes below $30,000 will be looking at tax increases.

In 2027, the JCT predicts that households with incomes at $75,000 or less would be looking at tax increases while those at the top would still enjoy tax cuts. Those tax cuts along with the cuts to corporate taxes will add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the course of the decade.

And for good measure, to care for creation, the bill authorizes drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

POTUS said often that he was going to bring back coal. But did his base really expect to find it in their Christmas stocking?

How will Hawaii respond?

The predicted passage of the GOP tax cuts, a beast that keeps shape-shifting, should be a call to our state legislators to move with urgency on issues such as improving the minimum wage to offset some of the abuse being heaped on the most vulnerable by Congress.

Will local businesses, in recognition of their “big beautiful tax cuts,” let some of that wealth “trickle down” by actively supporting a higher minimum wage, for instance?

Yeats warned that “the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”

If we understand just how pitiless this bill is, its advent should move us to ensure that things do not fall apart. That the center does hold. It is up to us to disabuse Republicans of their conviction that their “rough beast, its hour come round at last / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.”

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author