Roundtable – The Republican Tax Bill

The Roundtable is Torchlight staff’s discussion of news and events. The text has been lightly edited for clarity, and some links were added after the fact. This conversation happened on December 23, 2017.

Tom Rich, Editor-in-Chief

Welcome to the last Roundtable of 2017, where Torchlight staff discuss the news and events of the day. The hot topic this week was the new tax plan, passed along sharp party lines by Congressional Republicans. There seems to be something to hate in here for pretty much everybody who isn’t a multi-millionaire, so let’s start out easy: what’s the worse part of this bill?

Dave Schmitz, Junior Managing Editor

The worst part of and for the bill is the stripping of the individual mandate of the ACA. That simple act is going to snowball into increased premiums that will wipe out any tax savings for individuals by an order of magnitude.

Tom

For readers unfamiliar with why that would happen, the ACA’s increased coverage requirements for health insurance mean that insurance is more expensive to provide; the individual mandate, requiring people to have insurance, offsets that cost. By removing the individual mandate without lowering the level of insurance provided, the bill  means that insurance companies will have to raise premiums in order to be able to make payouts.

Josh Kyu Saiewitz, Senior Managing Editor

The worst part of the bill is all of it, but I think special mention deserves to be made of how awful and undemocratic this process was. This was a bill that was not really debated or amended, where key votes happened in the dead of night, where artificial deadlines created such urgency that the bill had to be passed three times due to errors, and at one point was voted on while parts where still handwritten. The ACA repeal efforts were probably worse from a process perspective, but they also didn’t pass. This is actual legislation whose construction was like a last minute homework assignment, and I have no doubt there are still many errors and loopholes accidentally remaining that we’ll discover in due course.

Christopher Dahlin, Politics Editor

The worst part of the bill for me is honestly the procedure taken to write the thing. It was scrawled into being essentially the morning it was voted on, and then basically faked through from there. Senators were literally not voting for anything besides party affiliation, because there wasn’t actually a bill to read. (and also they screwed it up the first time, and likelihood they screwed something up in conference is not exactly low). Now, some would say this is just an acknowledgement of our political reality, but the fact that it’s so blatant and open is terrible for the health of our government.

Sam Dieffenwierth, Researcher

The worst part of the bill for me as a conservative was just how slipshod it is. Like you both said, it was rammed through in the middle of the night and voted on before Congress had even finished writing it. Strike one. Strike two, you (the GOP) as the opposition call for tax reform for almost a decade- it’s a big plank of your platform and one you harp about constantly. Then when the big day comes you’ve got to hurriedly scribble add-ons in the margins like a phone number on a cocktail napkin? Really? And lastly, and pethaps the biggest strike of all, it was the most weaksauce, unambitious bill possible. You had ten years to think up ways to reform America’s insanely complex tax code. You had the votes and the President to finally make it happen. And what do you do? Eliminate part of an unrelated law from half a decade ago, double the standard deduction, and throw in a bunch of “nice to have” goodies for people in your own income bracket. That’s it.

I think that more than anything else this year the Big Tax Bill has shown just how incompetent and intellectually bankrupt Ryan and McConnell’s Congress is.

Christo

This bill is even more unpopular than the ACA repeal. And I don’t think Republicans are correct that it will get more popular as time goes on (ala ACA). I think the California republicans are kinda screwed, and hopefully Dems keep their enthusiasm, because there is a tipping point where gerrymandering is counterproductive. People are not suddenly going to like Trump.

Sam

You’ve got it in one – the fault line between the Trumpists and the establishment GOP is going to be THE major issue in the 2018 elections. Right now the people who run the GOP, they like open borders, cheap labor, free trade, and plenty of foreign intervention. Trump crushed the opposition by taking the direct opposite stance on all of those issues and they hate him for it. All this year they’ve been sandbagging him on the big issues- the Wall, pulling our troops out of the Middle East, NAFTA, revoking H1Bs, etc. Now he’s made some progress via executive fiat- he killed the TPP, we’re out of Syria, and ICE and the DHS have been nibbling away at the levels of illegal immigration and worker-replacement visas. But will it be enough to save the Republican control of Congress? I don’t think so. The base knows exactly who is to blame for all this and if by the time 2018 rolls around if big-ticket items are still dead in the water they’ll just stay home.

That means good news for the left, though. Keep up the opposition, keep fighting and you’ll most likely win big in ’18.

Dave

I don’t want it to go unmentioned that this tax bill was the single bill of consequence passed this year with a single party in control of all the levers. And they are trying to claim it is some amazing thing that will cure all the ills of society. Well, first, it’s pathetic that it’s the only bill passed that matters all year and in the way it was passed makes it even more silly to be so proud about it. Second, the pedestal that Republicans are putting this up on is very precarious. It’s just not going to be consequential to give the vast majority of people like $10 a week or whatever it is. It’s not helpful and won’t make anyone feel better after they’ve had it for a year. Lastly, everything it does do wasn’t needed. Cutting taxes for businesses in an environment of economic growth and recovery is NOT a good idea. Every historical metric proves this out. We’ve done it before and it never works. It does the opposite. Every time.

Sam

As a final reminder that the GOP in Congress is terrible, cutting taxes while buying a thousand billion dollars’ worth of weapons for overseas wars (and calling for more wars as loudly as they can) is the mark of a class that truly does not care about the future of this country.

Christo

Also also, this is their singular achievement for the year.  They have done nothing but this and nominate universally unqualified judicial appointments

Josh

There are many things the Republicans could have done to help America, even if those things came with a small tax cut for the wealthy. Instead they’re just looting the country on their way out the door, to the tune of 1.5 trillion dollars, more than 80% of which accrues to the 1%. In an age of increasing inequality, their actions are inexcusable. And they all voted for it, even the so-called moderates. Here’s to 2018, the year when we vote all of these motherfuckers out of the power they’ve so abused.

Tom

I like that we’re ending the year’s last Roundtable on an endorsement of voting. Enjoy your holidays, and double-check your registration for next November. Thanks as always, everyone, for a lively conversation, and we’ll see you all in the new year!

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