As more senators show signs of sacrificing their principles and embracing the Republican tax bill for minor and nebulous concessions, it bears looking more closely at the process that produced this terrible legislation and some of its lesser-known provisions.
The Senate tax bill, a 515-page mammoth, was introduced just last week, and the chamber could vote on it as soon as Thursday. This is not how lawmakers are supposed to pass enormous pieces of legislation. It took several years to put together the last serious tax bill, passed in 1986. Congress and the Reagan administration worked across party lines, produced numerous drafts, held many hearings and struck countless compromises. This time it’s not about true reform but about speed and bowling over the opposition in hopes of claiming a partisan victory. The country ought to be dismayed by the way senators like Bob Corker, Susan Collins and Ron Johnson appear to be backing away from their principled objections based on half-measures promised by President Trump and the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that will not address its big flaws.
This rush to the Senate floor has been orchestrated by Mr. McConnell, following the same playbook he used in the failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The longer people have to study the details, the less likely the bill is to pass. People should know by now about the big stuff: the giant permanent corporate tax-rate cut, the small and temporary tax cuts for the middle class, the repeal of the A.C.A.’s individual mandate and the $1.4 trillion added to the federal deficit over 10 years. But other provisions are not as well understood and deserve to be called out. Here are three.
PICKPOCKETING THE MIDDLE CLASS: Like the House tax bill, the Senate measure would change how the government adjusts tax brackets and other tax provisions for inflation, replacing the Consumer Price Index with the chained Consumer Price Index, which tends to increase at a slower rate. While most taxpayers would not notice an immediate impact, the effects would compound over time as more low- and middle-income families are pushed into higher tax brackets, and as working families receive less help through benefits like the earned-income tax credit.
Over the next decade, changing the inflation measure would mean that families would lose $134 billion by paying more in taxes and receiving fewer benefits than they would under current law, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. The increase will be even bigger in future years: $31.5 billion in 2027 alone.