Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Tax cut bill conceived in dishonesty was passed by corrupt Senators

Paul Krugman accurately predicted the events of yesterday in Passing Through to Corruption.

Unless something drastic happens, this will be the week Republicans ram through a tax cut that adds more than a trillion dollars to federal debt while undermining health care for millions. They will do so by violating all previous norms for major legislation, having held not a single hearing and rushed to a vote before the new senator from Alabama could be seated.

UPDATE: Both chambers passed the tax cut bill along party lines - strictly so in the Senate last night. More on that below. If you convert Krugman’s comments that follow in the past tense, you would be current.

The question is, why are they doing this? For this bill isn’t just a policy crime; it also seems to be a political mistake. It will, however, be good, one way or another, for the bank accounts of quite a few Republican members of Congress. Is that why it will pass?

This bill, however, faces heavy disapproval. Ordinary voters may not be able to parse all the details, but they have figured out that this bill is a giveaway to corporations and the wealthy that will end up hurting most families. This negative view isn’t likely to change.

Nevertheless, Republicans have persisted. Why?

One answer may be that they really believe that tax cuts will unleash a huge economic boom. There’s almost complete consensus among experts that it will do no such thing — but the G.O.P. has been waging war on expertise in all fields. (Among the terms reportedly banned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are “evidence based” and “science based.”)

So you get people like the Republican congressman who told CNBC’s John Harwood that his colleagues told him there are models predicting huge gains (there aren’t), that he doesn’t know what those models are, but that he trusts his party’s line.

… most disturbing, possible explanation for the behavior of Republican legislators is that they’re supporting legislation, knowing that it’s bad for both the country and their party, because it’s good for them personally.

when it comes to the Senate, bear in mind that many senators are personally wealthy, meaning that they might be swayed by policies that enhance their personal fortunes. Which brings us to the “Corker kickback.”

Senator Bob Corker, citing concerns about the deficit, was the only Republican to vote against the Senate version of the tax bill. Now, however, he says he will vote for a final version that is no better when it comes to fiscal probity. What changed?

Well, one thing that changed was the insertion of a provision that wasn’t in the Senate bill: Real estate companies were added to the list of “pass-through” businesses whose owners will get sharply lower tax rates. These pass-through provisions are arguably the worst feature of the bill. They will open the tax system to a huge amount of gaming, of exploiting legal loopholes to avoid tax.

But one thing they will also do, thanks to that last-minute addition, is give huge tax breaks to elected officials who own a lot of income-producing real estate — officials like Donald Trump and, yes, Bob Corker.

Corker denies that he had any role in adding that provision. But he has offered no coherent alternative explanation of what changed his mind about voting for a bill that explodes the deficit.

We may never know exactly what happened with Corker. But there’s every reason to believe that Republicans in Congress are taking their cues from a president who openly uses his office to enrich himself. Goodbye, ideology; hello, corruption.

Senate passes tax cut bill

The vote was 51 Republicans voting yes vs. 48 Democrats voting no. Two of these Republican Senators is all it would have taken to defeat this bill. Each of these laid claim to principles that were incompatible with the tax bill. Each of them violated their own principles in voting for the bill. Each of them voted for tax cuts for their monied masters. Shame.

Sen. Flake
Sen. Jeff Flake
Sen. Collins
Sen. Susan Collins
Sen. Corker
Sen. Bob Corker


Headshots from vote-usa.org.

The NY Times carries snipshots of the action last night in Republican Tax Bill Passes Senate in 51–48 Vote. Here are some of them.

… the bill changed slightly in the Senate, and the House will now need to vote on it again since both chambers must approve identical legislation. Among the items that were deemed out of order was the title of the bill: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Hmmm. I wonder what piece of Orwellian double-speak the GOPlins will invent next.

As the final vote approached in the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, gave his closing argument against the bill and scolded his Republican colleagues for talking during his remarks on the floor.

“This is serious stuff,” Mr. Schumer said. “We believe you’re messing up America. You could pay attention for a couple of minutes.”

Of course they would not. Remember these are people who, like Donald Trump, have no respect for anyone other than their monied masters.

The reach of the bill extends beyond taxes. It strikes at a core component of the Affordable Care Act, eliminating the requirement that most people have health coverage or pay a penalty, a move that the Congressional Budget Office projects will increase premiums for people who buy insurance. It also would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas drilling, a defeat for environmentalists who have fought against such action for decades.

If you want to know what effect oil drilling will have on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, check out this photo essay in the Times: Here’s What Oil Drilling Looks Like in the Arctic Refuge, 30 Years Later. “Once you start disturbing the tundra vegetation, it takes sometimes nearly forever for the mark to go away,” said “It’s easy to do something on the tundra but it’s very difficult to restore,” said Francis Mauer, a retired biologist for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service who worked in the refuge for decades, including the years when the well was in place.

The tax cut lies and the liars who told them

Goodby to integrity, hello Orwellian obfuscation. The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin exposes The most infuriating falsehoods about the tax bill and those who told them.

To put it simply: At every step of the way the GOP has misrepresented the nature of the bill while individual lawmakers misled voters in insisting they would only vote for a tax plan under certain conditions.

First, President Trump and his senior adviser insisted the tax bill would not benefit the rich. [Second,] House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) repeatedly assured the country this was aimed at the middle class.

… [Third,] Senate and House budget hawks falsely have insisted over and over again that the cuts pay for themselves. If they truly believe this, they’ve flunked economics 101 and refused to look at objective data. If they know what they are saying is untrue, as many suspect, they are hypocrites, forever losing their claim to fiscal conservatism. That they now feel compelled to begin talk about entitlements cuts suggest they know they’re unleashing a torrent of red ink. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have lost their claim to fiscal sobriety.

Fourth, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was — depending upon whom you believe — disingenuous, confused or naive. (All three.) At various times she insisted the bill would not increase the debt (see No. 2) and that she received assurances that would more than offset the damage done to the Obamacare exchanges by repeal of the individual mandate (also false). Most infuriating to those who regarded her as a smart and reasonable legislator, she accepted promises the Republicans leadership could never deliver upon (because House Republicans were not on board) to pass two pieces of legislation that would provide new money for the exchanges and also subsidize states’ high-risk pool. When it was apparent she’d been fooled, she meekly decided to vote for it anyway. Whatever kudos she earned in opposing assaults on the Affordable Care Act have been forfeited. It is hard to think of a lawmaker whose reputation has been harmed more than hers.

Here’s one more snipshot from the Times report on the Senate vote;

On the floor of the Senate, the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, observed the proceedings, as senators mingled. The Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Jeff Flake of Arizona laughed as they spoke to each other while protesters implored them to change their minds and vote down the legislation.

They had nothing to laugh about.

That they did so anyway proves that the joke’s on us.

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