Brent Budowsky: Marie Antoinette tax cuts

Brent Budowsky: Marie Antoinette tax cuts
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Republicans are writing a tax bill behind closed doors, treating Congress like Russia, where only one party is allowed to govern, and planning to jam the bill to passage through a force-fed vote under a phony deadline without any pretense of detailed analysis and thoughtful debate that every American taxpayer should demand.

Do Republicans really want to repeat the procedures and results of their health-care fiascos of 2017?

Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainPence, Pompeo urged Trump to clarify Russia remarks: report GOP lawmaker renews call for Trump to release tax returns after Putin summit House conservatives criticize media, not Trump, for Putin furor MORE (R-Ariz.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (R-Maine), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSenate Dems build huge cash edge in battlegrounds Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash Trump seeks to quell Russia furor MORE (R-Tenn.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeKelly lobbied Republicans to rebuke Trump after Putin press conference: report Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash Flake to Trump: 'Fake news' didn't side with Putin, you did MORE (R-Ariz.), and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 MORE (R-Alaska) can prevent this travesty and insist on the regular order of bipartisan governing.

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Democrats will win by supporting tax cuts for hard hit Americans and opposing Marie Antoinette tax cuts offered by Republicans that benefit those who have the most, through provisions bought by special interest donors and enacted by hasty votes after shady deals made behind closed doors.

Since Marie Antoinette met her fate, the most famous words identified with her are “let them eat cake.” Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE is the Marie Antoinette of American politics. He tells his base to eat the cake of despising those he scurrilously attacks on his enemies lists, while he lets crony capitalists who back him feather their nests in the murky swampland of his presidency.

Trump’s ratings continue to fall because even voters who trusted him — especially white voters without college degrees — increasingly see through his populist act and realize the crony capitalist truth that defines his presidency.

A lesser-known aspect of the Antoinette legacy is that at the time of her demise, while France endured a punishing financial crisis, she was scorned as “Madame Deficit.” Citizens deeply resented her lavish and garish deficit spending while the royal court aggressively opposed social and financial reform at a time of economic unfairness, hardship and pain.

A tax bill that raises the federal deficit by more than a trillion dollars, increases taxes on many middle-class citizens by attacking popular deductions and lowers taxes on the wealthy is a Marie Antoinette tax bill. Fiscal frauds can fabricate phony revenue estimates, but history teaches that someone will ultimately pay the tab, and endure the pain, and it will ultimately be middle-income and poor Americans.

Certain Republicans propose Marie Antoinette tax increases such as attacking deductions for 401(K) retirement plans, charitable donations, mortgage interest for home purchases and state and local taxes while proposing Marie Antoinette tax cuts or loopholes that provide huge benefits for the most wealthy individuals and corporations.

Let’s consider what could become the mother of all Marie Antoinette tax cuts, which would allow low tax repatriation of some $3 trillion of assets now held abroad by some of America’s most profitable multinational corporations.

Such a tax cut, standing alone, would lavish an enormous reward on megaprofitable firms that hoard vast sums of money abroad to avoid paying taxes, after making vast sums of money abroad by exporting American jobs to nations where that profit now sits idly.

Let’s make a deal. If that money comes home at a discounted tax rate of 14 percent it will provide a one-time surge of revenue measured in hundreds of billions of dollars.  To fairly distribute the benefits of repatriation this money should be directly targeted to help poor and middle-class Americans through rebates, creating a health-care public option with low premiums, or some other mechanism.

McCain was right to call for a return of the Senate to regular order. It would be far better for America to pass a fair and carefully considered tax bill in early 2018 that is achieved through bipartisan talks, than to force-feed an unjust one-party bill on short notice without thorough consideration that could be as disastrous as GOP health care fiascos throughout 2017.

If Republicans hastily pass Marie Antoinette tax cuts in December 2017 they may be politically decapitated by unhappy voters demanding real change in November 2018.

 


Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.