The More We Learn, The Less We Like

The GOP tax bill has cleared another hurdle, and appears to have momentum–there are even reports suggesting it will be voted on today. Those of us hoping that at least two or three Senate Republicans might put the interests of the country above those of their party are likely to discover that those principled Republicans don’t exist.

Every time I discover something new about this abominable bill, it gets worse. So far, I’ve come across no redeeming features of this obscene and economically destructive proposal.

The latest “discovery” comes courtesy of Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Republicans love to tell us that if the government would just stop providing a social safety net, churches and charities would step in and everything would get better. But a study of the new Republican tax “reform” bill says it will reduce charitable giving by up to $24 billion a year.
It’s hard to tell whether this nasty little surprise was intentional–I rather doubt it, since the entire bill displays incredible ignorance of how the economy really works. (If anyone supporting this giveaway to the rich really believes it will create either jobs or prosperity, that would be the ultimate triumph of hope over experience.)
As any economist or tax lawyer will affirm, many–perhaps most– of the provisions in the IRS Code work a lot like the balloons used by the guys making them into animals at fairs and festivals–squeeze here, and it gets bigger there. As the referenced study found,

Even though the House version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) preserves the charitable income tax deduction, other income tax provisions of the bill could reduce charitable giving by between $12 billion and $20 billion in 2018, based on new estimates from the Tax Policy Center. A second provision—repeal of the estate tax—could reduce giving by another $4 billion in the longer run.

By nearly doubling the standard deduction and either repealing or scaling back most itemized deductions, the House version of the TCJA would substantially reduce the number of taxpayers who elect to itemize. TPC estimates that fewer than 13 million taxpayers would itemize deductions in 2018 under the House version of the TCJA, down from more than 46 million under current law.

It would be lovely if everyone making a charitable contribution was motivated purely by concern for whatever cause their dollars are supporting. (If you do believe that, I have some swampland in Florida to sell you…) Even generous givers, however, are conscious of the tax incentives involved. When the effective cost of a donation is less, it’s easy to give more. This tax bill reduces that incentive by increasing the after-tax cost of giving by about 8 percent.

This troubling result is less obvious from the face of the bill than several of the other consequences that have been highlighted: the 1.4 trillion added to the deficit, severe automatic cuts to Medicare, making graduate school unaffordable by taxing tuition supports as income (or, for that matter, making all college educations less affordable by removing the deduction for interest on student debt.) It goes on and on.
We are living with an American government that reserves its favors for the “haves” while doing steadily less for the “least among us.” The people getting the short end of the stick are going to depend to an even greater extent upon the charitable organizations that are already stretched well beyond their capacities– organizations that are demonstrably unable to fill the considerable gap between what poor families need to survive and what they earn.
It’s going to get very ugly.
On the other hand, you will still be able to deduct the expenses for your corporate jet….


  1. “It’s going to get very ugly.” What does that mean? 1) the projected result will make life more oppressive and unbearable for those at the bottom of society, the so called 98%, or 2) that ugliness will cause a backlash and remove the GOP majority in Congress in ’18, or 3) result in more than just throwing out the bums in the voting booth, literally throwing out the bums, or 4) some combination of these 3? The first seems inevitable. What will follow? It seems the GOP is throwing down the gauntlet: we dare you, fellow citizens, to do anything other than live with this abomination.

  2. What happens to this country’s economy if this tax bill gets passed and we have another year of hurricanes, floods and droughts? Or we get into a war with North Korea? All while our bridges, roads, dams and the rest of the infrastructure falls into disrepair? And our public school system is dismantled as the EPA and the FDA are gutted? What is Congress thinking? Are they thinking at all?

  3. A counter marketing campaign to take down disastrous capitalism and its supporters is needed. Is anyone out there working on that? Reacting only to all this shock and awe is pretty tiresome. They say tax reform, we say tax cuts. They say health care reform, we say cutting 23 million off healthcare. They say voter fraud, we say voter suppression. They say fake news, we say facts.
    Since these abhorrent behaviorists are screwing up our planet’s air, water, and soil in pursuit of the almighty dollar ( ignoring the common good), and are likely to end up building bubble houses to filter out the toxic crap they are putting into the air, water and soil, I say label them the “bubble people” and let’s work together to burst there bubble. Countering the whole group of ideas labeled makes sense to me, instead of always reacting and taking them on one at a time. Put a silly name/label on them like the bubble people, and let’s go creatively to work together.

  4. Theresa; you rock! Congressional members, Republican and Democratic, both House and Senate, have no concept of the reality of life as the 98% live daily. HOW MANY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS MAKE CHARITABLE DONATIONS? Their lack of ability to decide if they would/could/should be tax deductible looks to me as if they have no donations to be listed on their IRS forms. They area also totally unaware of the fact that churches, with or without schools receiving voucher student benefits, are no longer providing neighborhood outreach due to the economy as Congress has established ridiculous expectations for them to do the job they are elected to do. IT IS TIME TO START TAXING THE CHURCHES. But; would this added tax base motivate local governments to begin maintaining, repairing, replacing our crumbling infrastructure, streets, roads, highways and bridges?

    About those charitable organizations; they are depleted to the point that they are turning people away for newly established ridiculous qualifications for assistance. I have one family member out of work for 6 years; picking up what temporary jobs she can, filing applications, told at one job fair she is unemployable at age 50. Earlier this year she was denied any and all assistance due to “living in a house she cannot afford”! Of course she cannot afford the house being unemployed for 6 years; her home is in what has become a low-middle income area, with crumbling infrastructure, one block from active railroad tracks.

    Who in federal government has the responsibility to maintain accurate records of the expense of supporting Trump and his extended family, providing 24/7 protection as they move around staying in family-owned hotels, eating in their restaurants, paying for Daddy’s golf games and golf carts to dozens of guards and guests at his privately owned golf courses. At this point in time; our biggest debt appears to be the charitable support of Trump’s businesses, those which are not failing.

    “The More We Learn, The Less We Like” Some days I cannot turn on MSNBC for more than 1-2 minutes at a time; my brain is on overload with the current LACK of administration of this government and escalating fear of nuclear war.

  5. JoAnn, Your question (how many members of Congress make charitable contribution?) misses the point. Very few members of Congress have any idea what is in this bill. It has been developed in secret by six House members, and about the same numbers in the Senate. Pieces of it have trickled out, and now a few independent organizations have figured out what it will cost the nation, but most members of Congress are just sitting, waiting for the leadership to put it up for a vote, so they can do whatever the leadership wants. Why should them waste time reading a complex bill that they probably understand little of, when they are going to do whatever the leadership tells them to do?

  6. Pat; I still would like to know how many members of Congress make charitable donations, they don’t have to know the current or pending tax bill to make donations. We are expected to maintain a stable economy, fill their tax base and donate to charities to support those in need who are in need due to the government.

    They are fully aware of the current “leadership” inability to “lead” anyone anywhere; the media and their constituents keep them informed with vital information they ignore. A few speak out against a few issues but vote to pass them. They are as aware of Trump’s lies and racism as we are and we haven’t read the bill either…or any other bill which has been passed and signed into law along with those Executive Orders neither they or we have read. The lack of morals and conscious avoidance of facts in both parties is destroying our faith in all members of this government. I have two donations ready for mail pickup which I am sickened to send but…they are going to Joe Donnelly and the National Democratic Committee, the only action I can take AGAINST the Republican party till the 2018 elections.

  7. Bernie Sanders wrote, “Mark my words. If passed, the Republicans will then rediscover the ‘deficit crisis,’ and push aggressively for massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education—higher education in particular—nutrition, affordable housing and more.”

    Sanders was right on NAFTA, he voted against it, and he was right on Bush the Youngers invasion of Iraq – he voted against it.

    The Trumps are one of just 5,000 families in the country with enough assets to benefit from one of the plan’s key features, the repeal of the estate tax. The lowering of the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent would also benefit the president.

    The Democrats as far as I can determine have made no counter proposal to the Republican Tax Plan.

    I expect, and I could be wrong, the Republicans to vote for some version of their tax plan. It will be skewed, I repeat will be skewed to provide the greatest rewards for the 1%, and Multi-National Corporations. The Republicans almost have to vote for it. This is was one of their promises. By the time their base wakes up and realizes they are eating rotten meat instead of lobster and the finest cut of steak – it will be too late. Then the Republicans can activate Part Two – Austerity for the 98%.

  8. But, but, but…what does Fox News say?

    Some folks are waking up but not enough to question this madness. MSNBC and Fox are the official media for both political parties. Critical thinking is out the window.

    In fact, those who are using their brains will be censored off the internet very soon so more American propaganda can flood the airways owned by a small number of players. And yes, plenty of “back doors” were built for our intelligence and security apparatus. Censorship has been in action for a decade and with a #NetNeutrality ruling pending by Trump…

    The word is dystopian – relating to or denoting an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.

  9. It’s not just the horrible substance of the bill (as will likely be THE bill after conference); it’s the speed with which such a major piece of legislation is being rushed through the Congress for fear that Trump will finally and totally lose it and/or the Corkers, Flakes and McCains of this world who, having nothing to lose politically, may defect. No committee hearings on such a major piece of legislation? No meaningful opportunities for Democrats to submit amendments? Just ram it through with vague promises to clean it up in the future? If it is already in need of cleanup, how about running it through Congress with the hearings and CBO reports and other such impediments which make for fair and considered outcomes leading to
    balanced legislation?

    Ryan and McConnell are giving the bum’s rush to this bill drafted by lobbyists in the back room for a reason (other than making their major donors happy). What is it? Do they see 2018 and a Democratic wave in the offing where this monstrosity would never see the light of day? Are they hoping to placate a psychotic president who, out of spite and not having been praised, might veto their offering and thus have to strike when the iron is hot? I don’t know, but I know this: When you make a major change in tax law that impacts everybody rich and poor and all those in between without committee hearings and CBO numbers under emergency pretenses, something is extraordinarily rotten in the State of Denmark (and the District of Columbia).

  10. Too many movers and shakers; especially those in the position of passing laws or paying others to pass the laws that control the lives of the masses, (who put these movers and shakers in the position to to do just that) have not been forced to change the way they do things. So until that happens we can commiserate until we are blue in the face. Trump and Company are running rampant through the rule of law and everything else in the name of change. We have allowed it to happen and it isn’t done happening. Even if we lose Trump we’ll simply be stuck with the rest of them. In the interest of hope-positive thinking- about anything else but this dread, the good ‘ol’ boys left in Congress will not live forever. And, women are forming a more active political group nationally….Barring escalated violence and social negligence we should come out of this a lot better. Simplistic? Possibly. We’ll see. I choose to believe there are more good people than the other. I choose to believe the Golden Rule is still alive and well. Hope springs eternal.

  11. “Even if we lose Trump we’ll simply be stuck with the rest of them.”

    Maywin; you know how my mind works, when it works. For some reason the above copied and pasted quote from you comments brought to mind seeing the old neighbor man cut off the head of chickens but the body kept flopping around the yard…somehow reminded me of how this government will continue flopping around if/when we rid it of Trump.

  12. After the Republicans get through with this abortion of a tax bill, the almighty dollar won’t be so almighty anymore. When our currency experiences lack of confidence in the world markets, watch for a major adjustment. It’ll be called Great Depression II.

    This will also promote the final destruction of the New Deal and we’ll be right back to 1929-34. But this time there are over 320 million people in America, not 140 million. I wonder how much the American people will be patient with Republicans when they can’t afford Bud Light and their cable TV subscription is not affordable.

    Pity the children who will have to bear the burden of the failure of our democracy. Well done, Republican voters. You should be so proud.

  13. I really hate the GOP. I don’t use hate often but it’s the only word to describe my disgust toward this outrageous bill. McCain is a yes. Call now!

  14. It’s the GOP-EVANGELICALS, stupid!
    Good luck if you imagine prayer will help.
    Rethink your support for religion institutions, especially for so-called religious schools.
    Support universal public healthcare and universal public education. Oppose vouchers and homeschooling – oppose the dumbing down of Trump’s America. Clean the foxes out of the henhouse in 2018 & 2020.

  15. Wonderful piece, as usual. What is saddest to me of all of this is the virtual lack of any chance that any Indiana Republican in Congress would even consider voting against it. A couple of weeks ago, Brooks, Young and other Indiana Republicans in Congress wrote a joint letter published in the comments section of the Indianapolis Star, defending tax cuts for the 1% because of the wonderful job creation that will result. The bill wasn’t even finalized yet. They are either stupid or lying, but in any event, there is literally no chance that they’d vote against anything, literally anything, their party proposes. Facts don’t faze them–they regurgitate the facts provided to them by their party. It’s to the point that the mere sight of them is upsetting. I feel the same way about Trump. There is very little chance they can be gotten rid of, too. That’s how pathetic Indiana is. Same for Alabama. The alleged child molester will probably get elected, because those dumb people down there have been told that liberals are making up this sexual assault stuff just to take away their rights. So the Howdy Doody impersonator will probably go to Congress–all so the 1% can pay less in taxes. Canada is looking better all the time.

  16. OMG,
    You’re singing to the choir…. In fact Americans poll over 60% favorable to the agenda you listed. It is also, in part, Sanders’ agenda.

    We progressives MUST re-frame the entire political discussion in the terms you mention. That means when we find someone who is a viable candidate for public office, he/she must carry that re-framing as part of their campaign and speeches and literature.

    One example of re-framing was the ill-fated “Better Deal” of the DNC. Sorry. That doesn’t sing. Something like preserving democracy, or “the peoples’ agenda” might be better. Much brainstorming must be done.

    Everybody on this blog knows what the problems are and who is responsible. Now, all this brainpower must get focused on the re-framing. We’re only 46 weeks away from the mid-terms, with several “special” elections in between. There is much work to do.

  17. Vernon; does the Democratic party even have a plan, if so are they keeping it secret from voters, are they cohesive enough to work together? Or are we on our own out here in the wilderness talking to ourselves and each other – or as you said “singing to the choir” – until the elections in 2018?

  18. Republicans don’t even feel the need to lie anymore about the purpose of this bill being to suck up to the donor class.

    Their regard for the people who create all of the wealth that our economy runs on is so low that they are thinking why bother to hide the truth these people are so dumb that they just won’t get it. They’ll believe whatever we tell them to.

    The crowned Prince of Brooklyn is the leader in the lie department. He says how much this bill will cost his family. Really? Does he think that we’re that stupid?

    Yes he does.

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