What if we told you that the tax plan that President Trump and Republican leaders in Congress released on Sept. 27 would cut taxes for the average household in the richest 1 percent by $207,060, but we couldn’t guarantee your family’s taxes wouldn’t go up? What if they offered to give your family a $40 tax cut, but proposed to pay for the tax cuts by actively undermining your children’s health care and education?
You’d likely say that’s a bad deal. But that’s exactly what they’re offering. The core of the Republican tax plan is enormous tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Now they are trying to “fix” the true consequences of their tax plan by increasing the child tax credit. But the plan is simply unfixable. Even if it is revised to include a larger child tax credit, families with children stand to lose far more from the Republican tax plan than they have to gain.
Increasing the child tax credit can offset the resulting tax increases for most, but however much the plan increases the child tax credit, the net boost to families with children will be far less than meets the eye. In fact, even with a $500 increase in the child tax credit, 45 percent of families with children would see tax increases by 2027, and families with incomes under $100,000 would see an average tax cut of just $40.
Second, the framework leaves out the roughly 20 million families that wouldn’t have enough income to qualify for the increased child tax credit. The Republican plan would disproportionately leave out the families with the youngest children, since families typically have babies before parents hit peak earnings and also need to account for caregiving responsibilities. But most importantly, families with children would ultimately pay a heavy price for the tax plan’s enormous revenue losses, one way or another, either in the form of higher taxes or through cuts to programs they rely on.
The Republican plan would reduce revenue by $2.4 trillion over 10 years, or $2.8 trillion when including the additional interest on the debt, according to the Tax Policy Center, which assumed a $500 increase in the child tax credit. The plan’s enormous revenue cost is driven by several extremely regressive tax cuts. In fact, the Tax Policy Center finds that by 2027, fully 92 percent of the net tax cuts in the Republican plan will accrue to the richest 5 percent of Americans, or those with incomes over $305,000, with the vast majority of that going to the richest 1 percent. If the other 95 percent of families had to pay for the tax cuts for the top 5 percent, it would cost them more than $1,600 each.
The Republican tax plan is part of a broader agenda that aims to pay for tax cuts by cutting investments in low and middle income families, including Medicaid, education, housing and nutrition assistance. Trump and the Republicans are likely to finance their tax cuts with higher deficits. But as we have seen repeatedly in the past, they will then use deficits created by tax cuts to justify slashing investments in children and families.
Medicaid, which covers 34 million children, including nearly half of all children with special health-care needs, may be the most vulnerable to cuts given that Trump and the Republicans have made their intention to cut health care to pay for millionaire tax cuts abundantly clear in their efforts to repeal ObamaCare. The White House and House budgets also cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which serves more than 20 million families with children, by more than one-fifth and gut investments like K-12 education, affordable housing and public health. These investments are critical for improving the lives of children and their long-term prospects into adulthood.
Under the tax plan put forth by President Trump and Republicans in Congress, a family with children making less than $100,000 would see an average tax cut of $40, about enough for one tank of gas, but risk losing their children’s health care and seeing cuts to their education. Meanwhile, the wealthiest households would see an average windfall of $207,060. In his 1987 book, “The Art of the Deal,” Trump advises savvy negotiators to “know when to walk away from the table.” The American people and the elected officials who represent them should heed this advice. This deal cannot be fixed with relative crumbs for middle-class families. It’s time to walk away.
Melissa Boteach is vice president of the poverty to prosperity program at the Center for American Progress, where she oversees poverty policy development and analysis, as well as advocacy and outreach.