What Smart People Are Saying About the Tax Bill

Tax Cuts
Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from USCapitol / Flickr and USCapitol / Flickr.

Who the heck understands the tax bill? Maybe the lobbyists who wrote the legislation but certainly not the members of Congress who will vote on it. The dirty little secret of that body is they are usually too busy raising money or appearing on TV to actually read. Especially when the thing they’re supposed to vote on changes more often than the White House staff roster and is more than 500 pages long.

So we thought we’d pass on a few of the more interesting insights and outrages that punctuated the great tax cut debate of 2017. (And for laughs and laments, please see our story from earlier this year, “Funny Wise Quotations on Taxes.”)



“It’s pretty convenient that average Americans won’t be seeing those tax hikes until after the next elections. That’s really slick. How can they expect people to vote before people know what they’re actually getting?”

Trevor Noah (Daily Show host), The Hill


“Oh, and ignore claims that tax cuts for corporations would jump-start the economy and pay for themselves. Of the 42 ideologically diverse economists surveyed by the University of Chicago on the impact of Republican tax plans, only one agreed that they would lead to substantial economic growth, while none disagreed with the proposition that they would substantially increase US debt. So it’s a giant scam. And while the exact nature of the scam may be unclear, ordinary American families would end up being the victims either way.”

Paul Krugman, New York Times


“The biggest winners by far will be American oligarchs such as the Koch brothers; Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley investor; Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate; Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets football team and heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune; and Carl Icahn, the activist investor. The oligarchs are the richest of the richest 1 percent. They’ve poured hundreds of millions into the GOP and Trump. Half of all contributions to the first phase of the 2016 election came from just 158 families, along with the companies they own or control.”

Robert Reich, Newsweek


“Republicans in Congress have been surprisingly forthright that they are pressing ahead a broadly unpopular set of tax code changes to satisfy their major donors. It is no secret that large donors have more sway than the average voter — but we have truly crossed the Rubicon when donor demands become an acceptable justification for major legislation. This should put to rest once and for all any doubts about the real-world impact of the Supreme Court’s evisceration of campaign finance law.”

David I. Weiner, Brennan Center for Justice


“Lawmakers scrambling to lock up Republican support for the tax reform bill added a complicated provision late in the process — one that would provide a multimillion-dollar windfall to real estate investors such as President Donald Trump. The change, which would allow real estate businesses to take advantage of a new tax break that’s planned for partnerships, limited liability companies and other so-called ‘pass-through’ businesses, combined elements of House and Senate legislation in a new way. Its beneficiaries are clear, tax experts say, and they include a president who’s said that the tax legislation wouldn’t help him financially.”

Lynnley Browning and Benjamin Bain, Bloomberg Politics


“Wage income will be the highest taxed income. That’s what more than 80 percent of working Americans get. I think it’s grossly unfair. Somebody working for a wage gets a higher tax rate than somebody doing the same job under a different legal structure.”

John L. Buckley (a chief of staff for Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation in the 1990s), New York Times.


“Donald Trump and leaders in Congress are on the verge of enacting one of the most immoral pieces of legislation in our nation’s history. The Republican party has billed its plan as a tax cut for America’s middle class, but it is in fact an act of gross violence against America’s poor to serve the country’s richest and most powerful.”

Rev. Dr. William Barber, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis; The Guardian


“The more you read, the more you go, ‘Holy crap, what’s this?’ We will be dealing with unintended consequences for months to come because the bill is moving too fast.”

Greg Jenner (Treasury Department, George W. Bush Administration); Politico


“So, the way to think about this bill is, this is a shopping list for the clients of Goldman Sachs. Donald Trump ran for president saying that he was going to drain the swamp in Washington. What he’s really done is turned it into a paradise for Goldman Sachs and its clients.”

David Cay Johnston (Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist); Democracy Now!


According to a roundup by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, analyses from the Tax Policy Center, Penn-Wharton Budget Model, and Tax Foundation all determined that the TCJA would add more than $1 trillion to the deficit — even when increased revenue from economic growth is added.”

Bob Bryan, Business Insider


“[The] legislation … could widen American economic inequality while diminishing the power of local communities to marshal relief for vulnerable people — especially in high-tax states like California and New York, which, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democratic.”

Peter S. Goodman and Patricia Cohen, The New York Times


“Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Friday that it is ‘unconscionable’ that Republicans would stick with provisions in their tax bill that would strike a blow to hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico. … ‘They are treating Puerto Rico as a foreign jurisdiction so they are levying a full tax,’ he said.”

Suzanne Gamboa, NBC News


“The evidence indicates that the bulk of the benefits from a corporate rate cut will go to those at the top, with only a small share flowing to low- and moderate-income working families. The Tax Policy Center (TPC) estimates about 70 percent of the benefit of a corporate rate cut will flow to the top fifth of households, with one-third flowing to the top 1 percent alone.”

Chye-Ching Huang (Deputy Director, Federal Tax Policy) and Brandon DeBot (Tax Policy Fellow); Center on Budget and Policy Priorities


“Beyond that, the new system provides an explicit, permanent preference for earning income in low-tax countries rather than the United States. The bill also gives a large windfall to companies that shifted profits offshore in the past, relative to current law.”

Kimberly Clausing (Professor of Economics, Reed College); The Hill


“The movement for a lower pass-through rate … might end up being the single worst structural change in the history of the US federal income tax.”

Daniel Shaviro (Professor of Taxation, New York University Law School); Start Making Sense


“[The rate of 35 percent cited by Trump] is not the rate that many companies in the US [currently] end up paying. Deductions and credits help push down businesses’ total tax liability, meaning that many companies end up paying far less than the statutory rate.”

Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR


“As for fairness, that principle was junked a long time ago. The final bill reflects the same principle as the previous two GOP bills: Dom Perignon for the plutocrats, cheap swill for the masses. The bill is also cruel. In abolishing the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to purchase health insurance, it will make individual plans even more costly and more difficult to obtain, especially for sick people. This isn’t just a tax bill. It is a backdoor effort to overturn the principle of universal access to health care.”

John Cassidy, The New Yorker


“The Senate GOP’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is being sold as a permanent fix to our tax code, but because of the gamesmanship and contortionist gimmicks the bill includes, it is setting us up for yet another era of tax extenders. These are sometimes narrow, sometimes broad tax preferences that get passed as ‘temporary’ but then almost always get renewed year after year. Tax extenders were always the little caboose that could. The package that extended a passel of special interest tax breaks for a couple of years would often catch a ride on bigger legislation to get enacted.”

Ryan Alexander (president, Taxpayers for Common Sense); The Hill


“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act … authorizes the sale of oil and gas leases in a section of the ANWR on Alaska’s North Slope, the coastal plain that faces the Arctic Ocean. Soon, energy companies will be able to search for — and extract — oil and gas from the frozen tundra. … No one will be more affected by the opening of ANWR than Alaska’s indigenous people, who will live among — and work on — the rigs, drills, and pipelines that would follow the discovery of any oil or gas reserve. … If a major disaster — like an oil spill or gas leak — were to occur in the area, it would devastate their only homeland.”

Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic


“More than half the members of Washington’s lobbying corps have plunged into the debate on taxes in 2017. In all, 6,243 lobbyists have been listed on lobbying disclosure forms as working on issues involving the word ‘tax’ through the first three quarters of 2017, according to Public Citizen’s analysis of a massive data download provided by the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org). That is equal to 57 percent of the nearly 11,000 people who have reported engaging in any domestic lobbying activities at all in 2017.
Put another way, this equals more than 11 lobbyists for every member of Congress. Perhaps surprisingly, the number of lobbyists working on tax issues this year has been only slightly higher than in the previous two years, during which tax overhaul was also debated but not expected to pass.”

Public Citizen


“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Des Moines Register


“I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) C-SPAN 2


A Patriotic Millionaire

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Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Donald Trump (The White House).

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23 responses to “What Smart People Are Saying About the Tax Bill”

  1. cashmagnet says:

    Will someone out there please tell me why NO ONE as far as I know has even proposed legislation that would make it illegal to pass a law that hasn’t been allotted enough time to be thoroughly reviewed? Aren’t the adverse impacts to democracy glaringly obvious?

    Why, too, haven’t the Democrats screamed from the top of their lungs about the latest 900 page bill that was foisted on the House and Senate with only minutes set aside for perusal?

    To me, this issue ought to come up each and every time a Democrat steps in front of a mic–while also speaking out against similar travesties like voter suppression, gerrymandering and the “One-Dollar-One-Vote” system which farces the outcome of any election…or is their reticence attributable to the fact that the Donkeys are guilty of the exact same things when they’re the ones in power?

    Disgusted,
    Clifford
    Sta. Monica

  2. Jason BMW says:

    Every republican should be dragged from their luxury offices and tarred and feathered…..for starters.

  3. gordonite says:

    I disagree that those two Senators are smart.

  4. Olle Reimers says:

    Don´t you realise that every socialistic system tends to make the rich richer?

    • Jimmy Falls says:

      Like Canada, that has universal healthcare, inexpensive college, and a social safety net?

    • Olle Reimers says:

      …and an obligation to address every person by one of the 48 genders that this person (may I say person or is that offensive/illegal too?). Canada is on its way to becoming a socialist state which will eventually run out of money. Socialism does not work. We have learned that; haven´t we?

    • Mik says:

      Denmark, Sweden, Norway, all semi socialist; each with a far higher Quality of Life / Happiness ranking than the USA. You don’t know what you are talking about.

    • Olle Reimers says:

      I am Swedish so I know what the heck I am talking about.

    • james warren says:

      And everyone else does not?

      If a person is able to be realistic and use common sense, they will find that reality is certainly not black and white. It is nuanced and multi-faceted.

    • George W Obama says:

      The US is semi socialist. We have a single payer military which the wealthy adore.

      Humans are not social animals. Humans are opportunistic animals. If they see a benefit to being social they will be social. But if they see more benefit to being anti social they quickly become antisocial.

      The wealthy love our single payer military because they could not afford a giant military machine to loot the planet of its resources by themselves.

      The wealthy can afford to pay for their own health care so they hate socialized health care.

    • james warren says:

      It depends. Socialism works for us when it comes to our military, the Pentagon, our Social Security insurance, our libraries, our police and fire departments, our garage collection, our highway system, our food and housing co-opts, the VA system, our postal system, and even war itself. Museums, public schools, public parks, sewer systems, the Department of Homeland Security–ALL [and many other American systems] based on a socialist model.

      All for one and one for all!

    • Olle Reimers says:

      But from whom?

    • james warren says:

      From me to the infant who needs emergency surgery for a serious heart condition.

      From me to those who live in neighborhoods that have little money to fund good schools, adequate polling places and police departments that know how to protect their citizens.

      From me to those who do not have efficient fire and police departments.

    • Olle Reimers says:

      It is not enough with the individual good hearted individuals like you. The problem is a system that relies on people like you. It sucks the resources until they are completely exhausted. To cite Margaret Thatcher : “the problem with socialism is that you soon have run out of the other peoples’ money”
      All experience tells us that that she is right. More and more people come to the conclusion that it is easier to earn a living by being on the receiving side instead of contributing to the resources created by people like you.

      In my home country Sweden this is just now an obvious fact. Good hearted people (and those who had a more cynical agenda) thought it was a good idea to take care of 500 000 people without our cultural values and without any adequate education. Those people, including their families, are costing the average Swedish taxpayer 5 000 USD per year and it will increase.
      So what happens? Normal Swedish people are emigrating! Where will the money come from?

    • james warren says:

      Sweden has plenty of money. If the government were honest, they would say “We do have the money. We just don’t think your needs are a priority for us.”

      In civics classes students learn what socialism is in America:

      –Our military [Our defense system in America is a socialist system from top to bottom. We as taxpayers fund the pentagon completely].
      –insurance pools
      –Police and fire departments
      –Libraries
      –Garbage collection
      –Our highway system
      –Postal service
      –Farm subsidies
      –Public schools
      –Our prison system
      –The IRS
      –The GI Bill
      –Customs and border protection

      As an American citizen, I enjoy freedoms that many in other countries do not. Like anything else in this world, our government is not perfect, but you should be thankful everyday that your country has a government that feels an obligation to serve the people and protect their rights and freedoms.

      This is completely possible because of government, taxes, and socialism.

      Do you think the private sector would do a better job of governing our country?
      Do you think corporations would enact laws to help protect and serve you and your family or them and their profits?

      We enjoy freedoms in this nation because those freedoms are enforced and protected through socialist means.

      Our entire civilization depends on us being a people united. Socialism is a glue that binds us together and makes possible the things that we could not accomplish as individuals working against each other.

    • Olle Reimers says:

      Sweden does not have more money than anybody else. On the contrary; on the individual level; the average Swede is in deeper debt than anyone people in the world. The only reason that we still are surviving as a nation is that there is a core of people with high work ethics and a handful of internationally strong companies. But the socialist ambitions are well on the way to destroy the nation. Not least by their recent feel-good policy to be the leading good nation in the world. We have imported close to 1 million (out of 10) people who have no education or even less work ethics who currently costs the average working Swede 5 000 USD per year.

    • james warren says:

      Where in God’s name did I say “Sweden does not have more money than anyone else”?

    • Olle Reimers says:

      I said it. You said there is plenty. There is never more money in a country than the people who want to work to make it. No country can survive unless 75-80 % of the productive population contributes. In Sweden that figure is rapidly falling below that limit.

  5. Olle Reimers says:

    There is no other way than to start by giving people the opportunity to start or improve business ventures. Basically; the average citizen should look upon himself as an entrepreneur with a responsibility for his own well-being. This is opposed to the attitude that you could always have the opportunity to go on welfare. “The problem with socialism is that eventually the others’ money will end” (Margaret Thatcher).

    • Jimmy Falls says:

      But how is giving more to giant corporations and the 1% going to benefit the masses? They are already flooded with cash and are just sitting on it.

    • fredd says:

      Funny no reply from Olle Reimers and he is quoting Margaret Thatcher…LOL the creator of unemployment and poverty.

    • fredd says:

      “The problem with capitalism is that eventually the consumer’s/workers money will end”and there’s nobody left to exploit (me).

  6. SeattleProgressive8 says:

    Does anyone know if the provision making political spending tax deductible that was in the House version made it in the final version? Or the provision allowing churches and nonprofits to make direct political expenditures?

    Considering how many surprises with huge ramifications are in the bill, this process by Republicans to bring this up for a vote without public debate or comment is major slap in all of our faces. Not to mention the bill itself.

  7. Jason BMW says:

    It is always a mystery to me why anyone in the middle class would vote for ANY lying Republican…and against their own interests. Republicans are the bought stooges of Wall St.