Tax reform has long been one of the core arguments that Republican politicians use to run for office. The message is simple – “if you elect us, we will lower your taxes and reduce the size of government.”
That message has always meant different things to different people. For the poor, it might mean not having to skip a meal every day of the week. For the middle class, the difference of a few percentage points in taxes paid could mean upgrading a car for the first time in a decade or finally getting started on home renovations. For the wealthy, it could add some extra square footage to the size of a new private jet. For corporations, it could mean renewed investment in business and an expansion of products or services, leading to new jobs (in theory).
There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those things. However, cutting taxes means cutting government services as well, which is why elected officials should be wary about whose taxes they are cutting and whose needs, not wants, are prioritized. The problem with the new Trump/Republican tax reform plan is that it is not the byproduct of careful consideration and overwhelmingly favors the wealthy and corporations.
In addition to being disproportionately beneficial to the president, his family, and his businesses, the Senate version includes a provision that would give a tax break to private jet owners and the House version would tax graduate students on waived tuition, making graduate school impossible to afford for all but the wealthiest students. The plan would also repeal a credit for teachers who buy school supplies out of their own pocket, a move which has accurately been described as “morally bankrupt.”
In addition to moral bankruptcy, the bill would cause financial bankruptcy as well. The U.S. budget deficit would increase by $1.44 trillion over the next 10 years under the GOP tax plan, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. For reference, the deficit for fiscal year 2017 is $666 billion. If this bill were to pass, Republicans in Congress and the White House would have no choice but to admit that fiscal responsibility is no longer a core principle of being a Republican, but merely another politically expedient talking point.
While the GOP tax plan is largely without merit, the concept of tax reform is not. The American tax system is complicated to a fault and filled with loopholes for the people wealthy enough to find them, the latter of which drives down revenues and only serves to increase the already staggering level of inequality in this country.
Democrats are ready and willing to work together if Republicans can open the door to negotiation. If the last 10 months have taught us anything, it’s that even with full control of the government, 100% Republican policies cannot pass due to immense unpopularity with the country, even their own base. If the GOP wants to get serious about tax reform, they need to honestly focus on those who need relief the most.
And no, that class of individuals does not include private jet owners.
Tharon Johnson is a consultant with Paramount Consulting Group and a Democrat strategist.