Van Ens: Poor get the short end of tax cut stick, while super-rich, corporations benefit most (column)
Wall Street power brokers and Washington, D.C., tycoons sell a tax cut myth. They claim slashing tax rates for the rich will put more money in most Americans’ pockets.
Spinners of this myth about tax cuts spiking the American economy bank on citizens’ historical amnesia of the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Donald Trump presidencies. Tax cuts then and now did and do not help the poor get decent wages, food, housing, health care and education.
Gullible Americans believe these schemes increase paychecks for most citizens. How? Lower federal taxes for the wealthy. Cut poor peoples’ benefits because welfare breeds graft and laziness. Increase military spending. Flood the judicial system with conservative judges whose rulings curtail social justice. Lift conservation regulations so corporations profit from mining fossil fuels on public lands. Let Big Business voluntarily decide ecological restrictions they will obey. Hike the national debt to pay for tax cuts.
Tax cuts didn’t lift poor citizens out of financial ruin during the Reagan and Bush presidencies. Historian Howard Zinn reports what Republican analyst Kevin Phillips uncovered about how tax cuts benefited citizens who least needed more money.
“Phillips pointed out that the greatest beneficiaries of government policy during the Republican presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush I were the super rich,” reports Zinn.
“(Phillips found that) ‘It was the truly wealthy, more than anyone else, who flourished under Reagan. … The 1980s were the triumph of upper America … the political ascendancy of the rich and a glorification of capitalism, free markets and finance’” (“A People’s History of the States,” Harper 2005, p. 580).
President George W. Bush pushed two tax cuts to cure economic ills. This fiscal scheme catapulted the United States into financial ruin when housing prices collapsed. Our nation’s economic engine didn’t just stall; it froze. Bush was forced to bail out the Wall Street perpetrators of this fiasco. They got richer from their banking failures.
Former Treasury Department administrator Neel Kashkari, under Bush II, then supported tax cuts, limited regulations and increased national debt. Now president of the National Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Kashkari repents of his former fiscal sins.
“I went into the Bush administration considering myself a free-market person,” he admits. “Free markets are still preferred, but markets can make mistakes, sometimes large, costly ones. We do need some regulation to protect against free-market excesses, such as those that lead to financial crises” (The Wall Street Journal, “Bail-out supporter becomes big-bank critic,” March 24-25, 2018, p. B-10).
Like a carnival barker, Trump pitches tax breaks. He excels at the art of the deal of leveraging debt by using other peoples’ money, declaring bankruptcy to escape creditors, not paying contractors and stiffing bill collectors.
He signs a $1.3 trillion spending bill and orchestrates a tax-cut giveaway in which corporate tax rates are reduced from 35 percent to 21 percent. Tax cuts for ordinary citizens are front-loaded, including expanded tax credits, but these reductions expire in the future, while corporate tax cuts are indefinite. Banks cash in on strong results. The super-rich rack up huge profits in this scheme (The Wall Street Journal, “Tax shift, rising rates lift Bank of America,” April 17, 2018, p. B-1).
A Columbus, Ohio, protester recently hoisted a poster with Matthew 25:35-36 highlighted, in which Jesus urges us to care for the poor first and feather our financial nest last. “I was hungry, and you cut my food stamps,” the poster announces. “I was a stranger, and you deported me; sick, and you denied me health care; a child afraid to go to school, and you voted with the NRA.”
The rich, not the poor, enormously benefit from tax cuts.
The Rev. Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt Creative Growth Ministries (www.thelivinghistory.com), which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations aimed to make God’s history come alive.