EDITORIAL: Toomey fails to lead on tax plan
Majority Republicans in the U.S. Senate are spending this week scrambling to win passage of their ill-advised tax plan. “Before that can happen,” reports the New York Times, “they need to win over a number of uncommitted senators.”
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey is not among them.
The second-term Republican describes himself as “really, really excited” about the GOP tax-cut plan, which he claims, “is going to directly lower the tax bill, and therefore, be a pay raise for the overwhelming, vast majority of Pennsylvanians.”
How so? Toomey trots out the old saw that lowering corporate taxes will allow business to invest more. “Investment in capital means workers become more productive. More productive workers get higher wages,” he says.
Except there’s no evidence corporate interests will do any such thing. That’s why, over the past 40 years, an average worker’s salary has increased a piddling 10 percent, while average pay for a CEO has grown by nearly 1,000 percent. And as for worker productivity, it is already at an all-time high.
No, Toomey and his GOP brethren aren’t concerned about helping the vast majority of Pennsylvanians, or middle class taxpayers elsewhere. They’re concerned with being able to point to a legislative accomplishment — any legislative accomplishment — after a year of running both Houses of Congress and the White House:
- Even if they have to act with irresponsible haste to pass what they themselves call the biggest tax reform package in 40 years.
- Even if they have to bend Senate rules to avoid a filibuster and exploit a simple 50-vote (one-party) majority.
- Even if it will add more than $1.4 trillion to the nation’s debt.
- Even if they have to mislead the public about who benefits. No surprise: the very wealthy, like the president and most of his Cabinet, along with corporate interests will see their taxes tumble. The middle class will get thrown a bone but — get this! — the bone gets taken back after a few years. Unlike the corporate and high-end tax breaks, middle class tax benefits expire after a few years.
Forbes contributor Tony Nitti does a good job of explaining the bait-and-switch: “In 2019, over 85% of middle class taxpayers will experience a tax cut, but by 2027, over 55% of those earning between $48,000 and $225,000 will pay MORE taxes than they would under current law.”
In short, this bill represents the Republican Party at its worst: Using legislative end runs to ram through a partisan bill with no opposition support to benefit their wealthy and corporate backers while sticking low- and middle-income taxpayers with the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried exactly the same strategy just months ago in his failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. A few GOP senators of moral conscience — notably John McCain of Arizona, whose plea for passing legislation through “regular order” needs repeating — stood for principle over party, and defeated the effort.
Middle-class taxpayers in Pennsylvania better hope those same senators return to form. Because when it comes to a choice between standing up for principles or standing with his political party, it’s more than clear where Pat Toomey stands.