It’s no surprise that the GOP tax plan headed to conference committee is deeply unpopular in states like California, New York and Massachusetts. Maybe that made it even more appealing to the Congressional Republicans who wrote it.
Early Friday, with the details scribbled in the margins by corporate lobbyists, Senate Republicans passed their version of the bill that will eventually overhaul the nation’s tax system to favor corporations and wealthy individuals.
A bill so bloated that it’s expected to add $1 trillion to the deficit over 10 years, will now be unified with the House bill before going to President Donald Trump for his signature.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the supposed fiscal conservative, was pleased. So was Trump.
“The Bill is getting better and better,” the president tweeted Friday. “Obstructionist Dems trying to block because they think it is too good...”
Not to throw cold water on Trump’s delusions, but “Obstructionist Dems” aren’t the only ones trying to get in the way of this legislation.
A poll from Reuters/Ipsos found 49 percent of the Americans who actually know even a little bit about what’s in the Senate tax bill opposed it. That’s up from 41 percent in October. Only 29 percent of respondents supported it. In a clear failure of GOP messaging – or a triumph of truth – more than half said mostly wealthy people will benefit; only 6 percent said it was designed to help the middle class.
Even reliably Republican almond growers are worried. Former California Secretary of Agriculture Bill Lyons wrote an op-ed that appeared in The Modesto Bee calling out the state’s Republican delegation. He urged House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to block a Senate provision that ends an export tax program that will cost growers. Lyons noted the 104,000 jobs generated by the almond industry, including 97,000 in the Valley. These aren’t all farming jobs, but jobs making harvesting equipment, finding more water-efficient ways to grow nuts, and jobs hulling and packaging nuts.
But the worst parts of this tax bill effects more than just a few thousand growers. Teachers will lose the meager deduction they now get for the first $250 they spend on classroom supplies. Considering that 80 percent of students in Valley schools already get free or reduced meals, that means many will have no classroom supplies at all. Or their teachers will be out even more. But expenses for home-schooling will be entirely deductible.
Those who sell homes warn that ballooning deficits could lead to higher interest rates, increasing the cost of buying a home which will, in turn, lower the value of homes. The “private activity bonds” that provide financing for more half of all affordable housing units could no longer be tax exempt. But a last-second break authored by McConnell made sure mortgage bankers will do fine.
For many Californians, deductions for state and local income taxes are huge – with $70 billion claimed in 2014. Gone.
There’s also the repeal of exemptions and deductions that benefit college students. UC Merced Chancellor Dorothy Leland asked in an op-ed in the Merced Sun-Star why “Congress seems so intent on making higher education less attainable” by killing the deduction for interest paid on student loans.
This Republican-led tax reform is awful for California, plain and simple. But it’s also awful for poor and middle-class people all over the nation. A few Republicans even refused to vote for this mess, but Jeff Denham wasn’t among them. He remained more loyal to his party leaders than to his constituents.