Several weeks have passed since Republicans joyfully passed a tax bill that will saddle our country with $1.5 trillion in debt and make it harder for working families to make ends meet. While they will insist that this bill creates bigger paychecks for everyone, in reality it is a giveaway for large corporations and billionaires.
While many Virginians may initially see small increases in their take-home pay, this bill ensures that middle-class tax cuts will only be temporary — and that middle-class families will permanently pay for the cuts later. The nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that the bottom 60 percent of Virginians will see their taxes increase by nearly $200 in 2027 while the top 1 percent will see a cut of $7,400.
This is just one example of how hugely skewed this bill is in benefiting millionaires and billionaires over working families, and why the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that 83 percent of the benefits of the bill go to the top 1 percent of taxpayers (those who are making more than $460,000 per year).
We know from experience that tax cuts have never paid for themselves, so this is just the beginning. Once our national debt begins to rise as a direct result of this massive tax cut, the president and congressional Republicans will come after Medicare, Medicaid and your hard-earned Social Security, in addition to cutting services for children, students, seniors, veterans and other key programs.
They will say that the burgeoning deficit we now face can only be paid for by cutting these vital services, but these cuts would not be necessary if the tax cuts had not passed.
This is the Republican playbook: complain about our growing debt; cut taxes, adding trillions to the deficit under the false pretense that growth alone will fix it; and when the tooth fairy doesn’t pay for the drastic tax cuts, turn around and cut the pillars of the social safety net. It is the epitome of hypocrisy to say that our national debt is our most pressing issue and then pass a bill that adds $1.5 trillion (and maybe hundreds of billions more when the dust settles) to the national debt.
Instead of focusing on simplifying the tax code, or making it more fair for working Americans, or reducing the deficit, this bill does the exact opposite. It creates vast new special-interest loopholes, creates a child tax credit that hands thousands of dollars to a family of four earning $400,000 a year but gives just $75 to a single parent of two earning $14,500 a year, and pretends that unheard-of levels of economic growth will pay for the budget hole they have created.
While cutting taxes by $1.5 trillion will undoubtedly produce some economic growth, every credible economist agrees that this is the worst way to do it. Republicans’ favored think tank, the Tax Foundation, estimates that their tax cuts will produce 339,000 jobs. This pitiful number means that we will be spending $4.1 million per job.
To get the best “bang for our buck,” we must consider where else $1.5 trillion could have been spent. Other studies have estimated that an infrastructure bill would create 15,000 jobs for every $1 billion invested. At that rate, instead of 339,000 jobs, investing $1.5 trillion in our nation’s infrastructure would create more than 20 million jobs.
We’ve unfortunately been down this road before. In 2001, Congress was debating what would happen if the debt held by the public was paid off, as projected at the time to occur in 2008. Instead of keeping on the path to paying off the debt and shoring up Social Security and Medicare, Congress passed massive tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, fought two wars and passed the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit without any plan for how to pay for these costly endeavors.
Basic arithmetic reveals the truth — we could not afford massive tax cuts 17 years ago, and we certainly cannot afford them now. We are forcing the next generation to pay for lessons we should have learned years ago.
Ultimately, the middle class will be forced to pay for this bill, either directly or indirectly. Only the top 1 percent will be spared. Tuition will continue to skyrocket, health care premiums will rise, and our roads, bridges and schools will continue to decay.
It should not go unnoticed that Republican leaders in Congress have already set their sights on “entitlement reform” — better known as cuts to Social Security and Medicare. So it is simple arithmetic — tax cuts for the wealthy will be paid for by cuts in those important programs.
By passing this bill, the president and congressional Republicans have shown that they will always prioritize millionaires, billionaires and large corporations over working families. The American people deserve better from their elected officials.
Rebuild America's Schools Act of 2017– legislation that highlights the need for bold investment in school infrastructure as a means to achieve greater educational equity, while breathing new life into communities and creating jobs.
Opening Doors for Youth Act of 2017– legislation to expand employment opportunities for at-risk and opportunity youth and support community efforts to keep youth connected to school and training.
HBCU Capital Financing Improvement Act – a to bill to modify the HBCU Capital Financing Program and authorize the Department of Education to provide financial counseling that prepares an eligible HBCU to qualify for, apply for, and maintain a capital improvement loan.
Fought Against Harmful Rollbacks
Gainful Employment and Borrower Defense Rules– the Trump administration has delayed implementation of rules allowing career programs that do not lead to good-paying jobs to continue to market themselves to unsuspecting students, and delayed borrowers from receiving financial relief from student loan debt for which the Department of Education has determined they are not liable.
Tip Regulations– the Trump administration proposed a rule that would allow employers to take ownership of workers’ tips as long as the tipped employees are paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Overtime Rule– the Trump administration initiated a plan to rollback a 2016 rule that strengthened overtime protections for millions of full-time, salaried workers when they worked more than 40 hours per week.
Americans' Retirement Security– Republican legislation nullifiedrules that enabled states and municipalities to expand retirement savings options, and Republicans joined the Trump administration in efforts to delay and weaken the fiduciary rule which requires that financial advisors provide retirement investment advice that’s in the worker’s best interest.
Contraceptive Coverage Rules– the Trump administration released new rules allowing virtually any employer or university to deny contraceptive coverage under the guise of moral or religious objections.
Promoted Democratic Values
Aim Higher – Committee Democrats launched an initiative focused on legislation that would provide all students with access to a meaningful degree that costs less money and leads to a good-paying job.
Better Deal– House and Senate Democrats worked to give Americans the tools they need to thrive and empower families and workers, and to unlock economic growth that will lead to better jobs, better wages, and a better future.
Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2017– the bill reauthorizes and reforms the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) to help state and local leaders better serve juvenile offenders and at-risk youth.
The House and Senate rushed through tax bills that will make sweeping changes to tax policy. Most of the benefits go to high-income earners and wealthy corporations, but the attacks on education will hurt us all. The provisions on education threaten students, colleges and universities, research and science, and U.S. innovation and global competitiveness. This will have negative consequences for years?—?or even decades?—?to come.
First, under these bills students will lose the ability to deduct interest on their student loans. That will make higher education less affordable and accessible. Second, many if not most graduate students will be priced out of school if the final bill includes the House bill’s provisions to treat tuition waivers as taxable income. This is going to be crushing for our medical schools and researchers, especially in the STEM/STEAM fields, and result in us falling behind on the discoveries that lead to new products and cures. And finally, taxing endowments, used primarily to help low-income students afford college, will take away opportunities from people who have great potential.
So what happens now and when? Because the House and Senate passed different tax bills, one of two things will happen. There will be a conference committee to reconcile the bills and both chambers will vote again on the new bill, or the House will simply vote on the Senate bill and it will go to the President to be signed into law.
And when? Early this week we return to Washington, DC and a vote could be held as early as this week.
There are many reasons to criticize these bills, but the attacks on education could have very long-lasting effects. I was able to work my way through community college, which opened doors and created opportunities for me to become an advocate for those who couldn’t speak for themselves. I want every American to have the same chance to succeed and to reach for a better future.
I hope a loud and convincing outcry from people across the country over the weekend can stop this recklessness.
BY THE NUMBERS: AN OPEN, TRANSPARENT PROCESS FOR THE ACA
The House held 79 bipartisan hearings and markups on health insurance reform in 2009 and 2010.
In these bipartisan hearings and markups, House Members heard from 181 witnesses from both sides of the aisle, considered 239 amendments (both Democratic and Republican), and accepted121 amendments.
In mark-up, Energy & Commerce Committee adopted 24 GOP amendments. In mark-up, Education & Workforce Committee adopted 6 GOP amendments.
The original House bill was posted online for 30 days before the first Committee began their mark up and more than 100 days before the tri-committees formally introduced their merged bill in the House.
House Democrats posted their first House bill online for the promised 72-hour review.
The Senate bill voted on in the House was onlinefor three months, and the reconciliation bill was online for 72 hours of review before the final vote.
House Democrats heard and answered questions from constituents at more than 3,000 health care town halls and public events, and tens of thousands of e-mails, calls, and letters were logged in Congressional offices to register public comment.
The Senate Finance Committee held more than 53 hearings on health insurance reform. They spent 8 days marking up the legislation – the longest markup in 22 years – during which they considered 135 amendments.
The Senate HELP Committee held more than 47 bipartisan hearings, roundtables, and walkthroughs on health insurance reform. They considered 300 amendments during a 13 day markup.
The Senate Finance Committee posted their legislation online for 6 days before the markup.
The Senate HELP Committee posted their legislation online for 6 days before the markup.
The Senate spent 25 consecutive days in session on health reform, the second longest consecutive session in history.
In total, the Senate spent more than 160 hours considering the health reform legislation.
The final Senate bill included 147 Republican amendments.
Trumpcare would be devastating to American workers. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that 23 million fewer people will have health insurance, including 3 million who will lose access to a job-based plan. 40,000 people in my district alone could lose their health insurance. We should be working together to grow the economy and create jobs, not take away health insurance from working families who need it.
Trumpcare also repeals many of the vital protections working families rely on. For millions of American workers, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) means that losing a job does not mean losing access to insurance. By guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and with the establishment of the Marketplaces and subsidies, workers now have health care options outside of their employers if they need them. I worked as an electrician for years and was an hourly worker. While I was lucky enough to be the member of a strong local union and received benefits, not every hourly worker is provided with healthcare options through their job.
Millions of Americans with pre-existing health conditions have no longer had to worry about being denied coverage or charged higher premiums due to their health status because of the consumer protections under the ACA. That means that if a worker leaves a job to start a business or take time to care for his or her family, there isn’t a reason to worry. That worker has protections against discrimination based on a pre-existing condition. Under Trumpcare, states would be allowed to waive pre-existing protections. Workers would have fewer insurance options and would no longer have guaranteed protections for themselves or members of their family.
Working families need higher wages, but until Congress acts to raise the wage, it's that much more critical for Americans to feel secure that they'll have health care when they need it. Trumpcare does the opposite.
Not only does Trumpcare hurt workers directly in reference to their own coverage, but it also hurts workers in the health industry. Trumpcare’s cuts to Medicaid and cuts to subsidies for private insurance means fewer funds would go to local hospitals and health centers that support millions of jobs. Estimates show there would be around 2 million fewer jobs in the industry.
Fewer families with health insurance, less security for workers with pre-existing conditions and fewer jobs overall equals a bad deal for the American worker.
Representative Donald Norcross (NJ-01)is a member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce.