The GOP Is Peddling a Massive Fraud on Our Pocketbooks and Our Lands

In a gift to the wealthiest Americans—and at the expense of our environment—President Trump is trying to push his reckless tax scam through before Christmas.
Credit: Chris Kleponis/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

In a gift to the wealthiest Americans—and at the expense of our environment—President Trump is trying to push his reckless tax scam through before Christmas.

As early as tomorrow, congressional Republicans hope to reward their corporate donors and wealthy patrons with a staggering $1.5 trillion in government handouts through tax legislation President Trump can’t wait to sign by Christmas.

The GOP tax scam promises ribbons and bows for the wealthy, stocking stuffers for the middle class, and switches and ashes for the poor—a bit like the Charles Dickens classic in reverse. It would do little, if anything, for the economy, saddle our kids with unconscionable debt, and widen the yawning wealth gap that threatens the legitimacy of our democracy. 

And it would expose irreplaceable public wilderness in Alaska to industrial ruin for the sake of oil and gas production that can only worsen climate change

Robert Redford: Help NRDC Protect the Arctic Refuge

As part of a dangerous and destructive tax bill, the Republican-led Congress plans to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to the dirty fossil fuel industry. This would impact coastal communities, imperil wildlife like polar bears and whales, and accelerate the devastating impacts of climate change—all to boost oil industry profits and help pay for tax cuts for the richest Americans. Help us fight back. Take action:

Posted by NRDC on Monday, December 11, 2017

This tax bill would undermine the vital work of federal agencies that protect our peoples’ health and safeguard our public waters and lands, while undercutting future investment in needed infrastructure and cleaner, smarter ways to power our future

And it marks a new low in perfidy, leaving in place golf course tax cuts that cost the treasury $60 million a year, at a time when Trump wants to raise $70 million annually by hiking the entrance fees to our national parks. That says it all: putting a walk in the woods out of reach for some of us—while preserving special breaks for country club owners like Donald Trump.

It’s time we called this what it is. 

This is fraud. It robs our kids and raids our lands for two things we can’t afford: tax cuts for the rich and dirty fuels that imperil the planet. No one who cares about the pursuit of equity, justice, and opportunity at the heart of the American promise can in good faith support this scam. That’s why Republicans are scrambling to vote on the bill before the country figures out what’s in it.

It’s a perfect scandal that should be rejected outright. 

Among the many underhanded maneuvers Republicans pulled in cobbling this scheme together behind closed doors, they added a provision into the tax bill to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, along with the roads, pipelines, power lines, and other destructive industrial operations that come with it.

One of the last truly wild places left on earth, the Arctic Refuge is a rich and fertile landscape teeming with wildlife, from the brown bear and golden eagle to the majestic caribou. It’s a feeding and mating ground to birds that visit from every state in the country. It’s a special American place, set aside in 1960 by President Eisenhower so that future generations might know the natural splendor of our country.

This land, in every sense, belongs to you and me

The oil and gas industry, by the way, already holds active drilling leases on nearly 7,000 square miles of Alaskan lands and coastal waters. That’s an area nearly three times the size of Delaware. This isn’t about whether to allow drilling in Alaska. It’s about handing over the public lands we share as a sacrifice zone for private profit. Congress has said no to that a dozen times. It needs to do so again—so says 70 percent of the American public.

The environmental stakes in this bill mirror its broader injustice. We have a serious and worsening equity problem in this country, where the richest 10 percent hold 76 percent of the wealth, up from 67 percent in 1992, and the bottom half shares just 1 percent, down from 3 percent about a decade ago.

The pursuit of equity doesn’t mandate equal pay for all. We must all believe, though, we have a shot at getting ahead by working hard and playing by the rules. The growing gap between rich and poor is straining that belief, and the GOP tax fraud makes the problem worse. Once its provisions are fully in place, 10 years from now, the plan would direct 61 percent of its tax savings to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, those earning $1 million or more per year, while actually raising taxes on those with annual incomes below $75,000. 

That’s not fuzzy math. It’s the truth about the plan as concluded by the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the official scorer for tax legislation. The benefits are lopsided, though, right off the bat, with half the tax savings in 2019 going to the 6.1 percent who earn more than $200,000 a year. The 35 percent earning $30,000 a year or less would see just 1.3 percent of the savings.

Somewhere Marie Antoinette is smiling. Not here, though. 

Barely a quarter of the public supports this scam. More than half believe it would hurt their family, financially; 60 percent understand that most of its benefits go to the wealthy; and two-thirds oppose a tax cut that would raise the national debt. The GOP tax plan would do just that, adding $1.5 trillion in deficit spending over the coming decade.

Republicans claim the cuts would spur economic growth that, in turn, would generate taxes, which scorers estimate could offset about $400 billion of lost revenue. Fat chance. The economy’s already growing at 3.3 percent, we’ve had 86 consecutive months of job growth—the longest stretch ever—and economists say unemployment can’t fall much below its November level of 4.1 percent

That means any near-term bump the economy gets from the GOP tax giveaway would likely drive up inflation and interest rates, putting the brakes on growth. The bottom line, says Moody’s Analytics, is that additional debt would tamp down any gains once the sugar high of tax cuts wears off.

Small wonder most Americans oppose the plan. There are some, though, who don’t: wealthy campaign contributors who write big checks to politicians willing to put partisanship ahead of the national interest. “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’” New York Representative Chris Collins told The Hill last month.

The test of public policy isn’t how much it strengthens the plutocratic chokehold on American politics but whether it advances the will of the people and the pursuit of equity near the heart of American purpose.

A bill that can’t pass that test shouldn’t pass in Congress.

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