All that wailing and gnashing and rending from Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and Josh Gottheimer and the other conservative Dems in Congress... you'd think they're Republicans. That would have been reasonable assumption today after next step of the $3.5 trillion "soft" infrastructure bill passed the Senate late last night. You'd think Bernie's plan to help the American working class was as evil as the Republicans' successful plan to give another leg up to the 1%. This morning, in fact, ProPublica drew back the curtain on Trump's and the Republican Party's 2017 "Big Beautiful Tax Cut.".
Justin Elliott and Robert Faturechi explained how it worked, starting with a simple example of grotesque, serial bribery courtesy of one of Congress' wealthiest members, Ron Johnson (R-WI), who married into a rich family and never looked back.
In November 2017, with the administration of President Donald Trump rushing to get a massive tax overhaul through Congress, Sen. Ron Johnson stunned his colleagues by announcing he would vote “no.”
Making the rounds on cable TV, the Wisconsin Republican became the first GOP senator to declare his opposition, spooking Senate leaders who were pushing to quickly pass the tax bill with their thin majority. “If they can pass it without me, let them,” Johnson declared.
Johnson’s demand was simple: In exchange for his vote, the bill must sweeten the tax break for a class of companies that are known as pass-throughs, since profits pass through to their owners. Johnson praised such companies as “engines of innovation.” Behind the scenes, the senator pressed top Treasury Department officials on the issue, emails and the officials’ calendars show.
Within two weeks, Johnson’s ultimatum produced results. Trump personally called the senator to beg for his support, and the bill’s authors fattened the tax cut for these businesses. Johnson flipped to a “yes” and claimed credit for the change. The bill passed.
The Trump administration championed the pass-through provision as tax relief for “small businesses.”
Confidential tax records, however, reveal that Johnson’s last-minute maneuver benefited two families more than almost any others in the country-- both worth billions and both among the senator’s biggest donors.
Dick and Liz Uihlein of packaging giant Uline, along with roofing magnate Diane Hendricks, together had contributed around $20 million to groups backing Johnson’s 2016 reelection campaign.
The expanded tax break Johnson muscled through netted them $215 million in deductions in 2018 alone, drastically reducing the income they owed taxes on. At that rate, the cut could deliver more than half a billion in tax savings for Hendricks and the Uihleins over its eight-year life.
But the tax break did more than just give a lucrative, and legal, perk to Johnson’s donors. In the first year after Trump signed the legislation, just 82 ultrawealthy households collectively walked away with more than $1 billion in total savings, an analysis of confidential tax records shows. Republican and Democratic tycoons alike saw their tax bills chopped by tens of millions, among them: media magnate and former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg; the Bechtel family, owners of the engineering firm that bears their name; and the heirs of the late Houston pipeline billionaire Dan Duncan.
The only Republican Senator who-- at least at first; he came around in the end-- opposed the massive tax cut claiming it would "deepen the debt burden on future generations" by "increasing the deficit by over $1.4 trillion" was Bob Corker (R-TN). In the end Corker voted for it, as did all 51 Senate Republicans. All 48 Democrats voted against it. I don't recall hearing anyone mention the word "bipartisan" at the time. That only comes up when the Democrats want to do something for the working or middle class.
"The drafting of the Trump law," wrote Elliott and Faturechi, "offers a unique opportunity to examine how the billionaire class is able to shape the code to its advantage, building in new ways to sidestep taxes. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was the biggest rewrite of the code in decades and arguably the most consequential legislative achievement of the one-term president. Crafted largely in secret by a handful of Trump administration officials and members of Congress, the bill was rushed through the legislative process. As draft language of the bill made its way through Congress, lawmakers friendly to billionaires and their lobbyists were able to nip and tuck and stretch the bill to accommodate a variety of special groups. The flurry of midnight deals and last-minute insertions of language resulted in a vast redistribution of wealth into the pockets of a select set of families, siphoning away billions in tax revenue from the nation’s coffers. This story is based on lobbying and campaign finance disclosures, Treasury Department emails and calendars obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, and confidential tax records. For those who benefited from the bill’s modifications, the collective millions spent on campaign donations and lobbying were minuscule compared with locking in years of enormous tax savings."
At the top of the Republican wishlist was a deep tax cut for corporations. There was little doubt that such a cut would make it into the final legislation. But because of the complexity of the tax code, slashing the corporate tax rate doesn’t actually affect most U.S. businesses.
Corporate taxes are paid by what are known in tax lingo as C corporations, which include large publicly traded firms like AT&T or Coca-Cola. Most businesses in the United States aren’t C corporations, they’re pass-throughs. The name comes from the fact that when one of these businesses makes money, the profits are not subject to corporate taxes. Instead, they “pass through” directly to the owners, who pay taxes on the profits on their personal returns. Unlike major shareholders in companies like Amazon, who can avoid taking income by not selling their stock, owners of successful pass-throughs typically can’t avoid it.
...Proponents touted it as boosting “small business” and “Main Street,” and it’s true that many small businesses got a modest tax break. But a recent study by Treasury economists found that the top 1% of Americans by income have reaped nearly 60% of the billions in tax savings created by the provision. And most of that amount went to the top 0.1%. That’s because even though there are many small pass-through businesses, most of the pass-through profits in the country flow to the wealthy owners of a limited group of large companies.
...Johnson’s intervention in November 2017 was designed to boost the bill’s already generous tax break for pass-through companies. The bill had allowed for business owners to deduct up to 17.4% of their profits. Thanks to Johnson holding out, that figure was ultimately boosted to 20%.
That might seem like a small increase, but even a few extra percentage points can translate into tens of millions of dollars in extra deductions in one year alone for an ultrawealthy family.
...The tax break is due to expire after 2025, and a gulf has opened in Congress about the future of the provision.
In July, Senate Finance Chair Ton Wyden (D-OR) proposed legislation that would end the tax cut early for the ultrawealthy. In fact, anyone making over $500,000 per year would no longer get the deduction. But it would be extended to the business owners below that threshold who are currently excluded because of their industry. The bill would “make the policy more fair and less complex for middle-class business owners, while also raising billions for priorities like child care, education, and health care,” Wyden said in a statement.
Meanwhile, dozens of trade groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, are pushing to make the pass-through tax cut permanent. This year, a bipartisan bill called the Main Street Tax Certainty Act was introduced in both houses of Congress to do just that.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), pitched the legislation this way: “I am committed to delivering critical relief for our nation’s small businesses and the communities they serve.”
By the way, progressive Democrat Jessica Cisneros is running for the south Texas seat Cuellar uses for his shenanigans and corruption. If you'd like to help her oust one of the House's worst scumbags, you can do it here. I recommend it.