The swamp is back! After rounding up 51 votes, Senate Republicans are busily rewriting their tax bill so that every lobbyist will love it. The thing is already a Rube Goldberg monstrosity, and now it’s time to break out the Christmas presents.
The senator from Alaska is getting a break for cruise ships—but only ones that stop in Alaska. The other senator from Alaska is getting something for Native Americans. The senators from Kansas and South Dakota are both getting breaks for agriculture interests. The senator from Pennsylvania got a special exemption from the new university endowment tax—an exemption that benefits only Hillsdale College, a conservative darling.¹ The senator from South Carolina is getting some money for opportunity zones. The chairman of the Finance Committee is shepherding through a provision that taxes university name and logo royalties. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is a hair’s breadth away from being opened to more oil and gas drilling. And we’re not finished yet. Oh no.
This is so bad. We have just gotten list of amendments to be included in bill NOT from our R colleagues, but from lobbyists downtown. None of us have seen this list, but lobbyists have it. Need I say more? Disgusting. And we probably will not even be given time to read them. pic.twitter.com/Mn0i56JeZg
— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) December 1, 2017
The senator from Texas is getting a break for private (i.e., mostly Christian) school tuition. The senator from Kentucky won passage of a provision allowing car dealers to deduct interest paid on loans to stock showrooms. The senator from Missouri, whose son is a lobbyist for MillerCoors, scored a provision that cuts taxes on imported beer and liquor. The senator from Georgia, home of Delta Airlines, got a provision that penalizes foreign airlines. This is all being done via handwritten notes at the last second, and the result is that about $600 billion of taxing and spending has been redirected within 24 hours without a single hearing.
No one has any idea how this is going to play out. The bill was written so hastily, and the amendments are being jammed through so fast, that nobody has any clue how all the moving pieces work together. One provision, for example, apparently provides an enormous tax break for equipment purchased in 2018—and only 2018. Is this designed to goose the economy next year before the midterms? Or is it just a mistake? Other provisions, in the hands of a talented tax attorney, would apparently provide a gigantic tax benefit for athletes and rock stars, though I suppose no one really knows for sure. Hedge fund billionaires not only get to keep their cherished carried interest loophole—which Donald Trump promised to eliminate—but they get a big new tax deduction to go along with it.
This is, I’m sure, an extremely incomplete list. It’s just what I ran across over the past few hours while I was scanning the news. God only knows how many dozens of other little goodies are buried deep in the bill for worthy donors and lobbyists. It’s an early Christmas for everyone.
Except the middle class, of course. I already showed you how many middle-class families would be getting tax cuts under the Republican plan, but a sizeable number of them will be getting tax increases. By 2027, nearly a full quarter of families earning $30-75,000 will pay more in taxes than they would under current law:
¹At the last second, an amendment to kill the Hillsdale giveaway passed. Even a few Republicans couldn’t quite stomach it.