In late 2017, about a year before they were summarily booted out of office, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives passed something they called the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.”
At that time Republicans not only made up a majority in the House, but in the United States Senate as well. They also had the amazing fortune of having a president eager and willing to sign whatever they chose to put in front of him. So they had an unprecedented, really tremendous amount of power, just then.
They could have used that power to fundamentally improve the lives of ordinary Americans. They could passed all kinds of incentives to keep corporations from “outsourcing” jobs and hiding and parking their profits overseas. They could have routed vast sums of money to rebuild deteriorating highways and bridges that Americans rely on every day. They could have bolstered up Medicare and Social Security, ensuring that millions of citizens enjoyed a dignified and prosperous retirement. They could have helped families pay for their kids’ college educations. They could have funded all kinds of services that would improve the quality of Americans’ lives.
Instead, they chose to do the exact opposite. They chose to reward the corporate conglomerates who had bankrolled their political campaigns with millions of dollars in campaign ads and ghost-written voter suppression laws. They completely turned their backs on the ordinary people who had voted them into office. And they did this knowing full well that their big, ballyhooed tax “cut” was really nothing more than a huge tax giveaway to the nation’s wealthiest, that would not do a single thing to help the people who had voted for them. They knew that as long as they kept repeating the time-tested mantras of “abortion” and “undeserving” and “illegals,” that their gullible voting base would swallow whatever snake oil they could cook up. That’s why they never even bothered to mention their “tax cut” in their re-election campaigns last November. They knew it was all an embarrassing scam.
They were all in on it. Every single one of them. And now, safe in their cushy corporate sinecures they had all pre-arranged before the voters wised up and kicked them out of office, they’re having a good laugh at everyone else’s expense. Yes, the Republicans fucked Americans over good, and they’re not looking back.
Now the returns are literally coming in—and its dawning on ordinary folks how badly they were conned.
The average refund is down about 8% under the first full year of the overhauled tax code, according to data released by the IRS on Friday. Refunds averaged $1,865 compared to $2,035 for tax year 2017.
***Some workers saw a bump in their take-home pay after employers started using the new IRS income tax withholding tables.But experts have said people could see smaller refunds than expected if they didn’t adjust their paycheck withholdings after the changes took effect. Others could see their tax burden increase because the revised code eliminated some popular deductions.
That so-called “bump” in take-home pay was part of the scam, and it was aided and abetted directly from the top.
[J]ust to be sure that voters noticed all the good Paul Ryan had done for them, the Trump administration reportedly pressured the IRS to err on the side of withholding too little from Americans’ paychecks “so people will see big increases in their take-home pay ahead of this year’s midterm elections.”
As it turned out, most people really didn’t notice much of a “bump” in their paychecks at all. So they took their anger out on the Republicans last November, sweeping them out of office. But as reported by Eric Levitz for New York Magazine, the real reckoning of this travesty is just beginning to come into view:
Now, the bill for the GOP’s (reported) withholding shenanigans is coming due: The average American’s tax refund was 8.4 percent lower in the first week of 2019 than it was one year ago (under the pre-Trump tax code). And while Americans have trouble noticing tax changes when they’re dispersed across 12 to 24 separate paychecks, they do typically pay very close attention to the size of their refunds. About three-quarters of the country typically qualifies for a tax refund most years — and for many of those households, that check from the IRS is the largest lump sum they’ll receive all year.
The economic consequences of this con job amount to more than simply confirming that the Republicans are charlatans. As pointed out in the Intercept by David Dayen (quoted by Levitz), the reduction in tax refunds is likely to reduce spending, which will end up slowing economic growth.
Beyond perception, there’s the reality that traditionally, about three-quarters of Americans receive tax refunds each year. It’s typically their largest single check annually. They plan consumer purchases, particularly durable goods and big-ticket items, around them. There’s an entire cottage industry of refund advance loans, where filers get refunds immediately from their tax preparer and pay them back when the IRS completes the return.
If those refunds don’t come through, even if people saw higher paychecks throughout the year, those planned purchases will not get made. “There would be some consumption that won’t happen, and that’s potentially significant,” said Gleckman. “What we’re going to see, we just don’t know yet.”
So not only will the Republican tax cut have failed to do anything to help the economic prospects of ordinary Americans, it may very likely end up resulting in an economic slowdown that could haunt the present administration as it tries to tout its achievements, going in to the 2020 elections.
While that may be a case of just desserts for the political future of Donald Trump, in the end it’s all of us who will end up suffering the consequences of this colossal Republican fraud.