Millions of Americans are scrambling to finish their holiday shopping, but for the top tenth of the 1 percent, Christmas arrived Friday morning when Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law. And while wealthy heirs and heiresses are lining their stockings (and pockets) this weekend, the rest of us have been left with a proverbial lump of coal.
So argues the New York Times' Paul Krugman, whose latest column explodes the GOP's talking points that this legislation is designed to benefit the middle class in any way whatsoever. Republicans insist that the $1 trillion corporations are saving will eventually find its way to workers in the form of increased wages. But a wealth of research suggests that only a small fraction of that money—somewhere between one quarter and one fifth—will actually trickle down. This figure could be even smaller over the next few years.
"Meanwhile, complicated things will happen to individual taxes," Krugman writes. "Some deductions will increase, others will be cut. Next year, most people will probably see a small tax cut, although for the middle class it will be a smaller cut than the one they got from Barack Obama in 2009—a tax cut almost nobody noticed."
Perhaps the most important thing to understand about the GOP bill is that its corporate tax cut is permanent while its benefits for middle- and lower-income earners will eventually expire. That means a family of four earning $60,000 combined could pay significantly more in 2027 when the legislation is fully phased in.
"Republicans claim that we shouldn’t take this prospect seriously, because future Congresses will extend the individual breaks—that is, they’re saying that their own law is so bad that it won’t be implemented as written," Krugman continues. "And remember, that’s supposed to be a defense of the bill."
What's worse, the way the bill is written practically invites taxpayers to cheat the system. Because independent contractors pay a far lower rate than wage-earners, thousands upon thousands will file as private businesses, but only those with the means to hire a top-flight accountant.
"The point is that there will be hundreds of tax-avoidance games like these, costing taxpayers billions if not hundreds of billions in lost revenue. But only those who are both affluent and sneaky will be able to play these games," Krugman concludes. "And what about those promises that rich people wouldn’t get a tax cut, that the tax system would get simpler, that you’d be able to file on a postcard, and all that? All I can say is, ho ho ho."
Read Paul Krugman's column at the New York Times.