Misplaced Priorities: GOP Leaders Are Fiddling While Rome Burns

Two new studies revealed that 8 million people have fallen into poverty since CARES Act aid dried up. Any promise of additional relief was dampened yesterday after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not consider a deal between House Democrats and the Trump administration, instead opting for a much smaller package that fails to respond to the extent of this crisis and has no chance of passing the House.

Every day, news pages are filled with stories on record-high unemployment rates, people across the country battling to make housing payments or put food on the table. The words and the stats represent real people. Senators should respond to the needs of their constituents instead of playing politics.

Although the White House has offered a compromise after a week of vacillation (Trump halted negotiations, then changed his mind, then changed his mind again) there is no evidence that it is pressuring the GOP-led Senate to compromise. Instead, the White House has moved on and, true to form, is spewing random policy ideas should it get a second term. Trump’s latest idea to address this crisis is to further lower the corporate tax rate, from 21 percent to an “even” 20 percent. This is akin to fiddling while Rome burns.

It’s clear that the rich and corporations will be a top priority for a Trump second term just as it was during his first term. His signature “achievement”, the 2017 Trump-GOP tax law, cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, while failing to close loopholes and end special tax breaks. The White House and its congressional allies claimed reducing tax rates for corporations would trickle down to workers. Instead, the tax law incentivized record stock buybacks, overseas profit shifting and continued tax avoidance by some of the nation’s largest companies. Amazon, Delta, Chevron and IBM are among 91 profitable Fortune 500 companies that paid $0 in federal income taxes under the first year of the law.

The average effective tax rate for profitable Fortune 500 companies in 2018 was just 11.3 percent — roughly half of the statutory rate. Corporate bigwigs are already redeeming the equivalent of a half-off coupon code.

The last year has been filled with pasta policymaking from this White House. It throws out ideas to see what will stick. This latest pronouncement cannot deflect from the Trump administration’s failure to adequately handle the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. It simply confirms that this administration prioritizes corporations and the wealthy over working people. And it isn’t alone. For months, McConnell has insisted on corporate protections (e.g. workers can’t hold companies accountable for failing to provide adequate protection against the coronavirus) in any additional package, deadlocking negotiations and withholding aid to struggling families. Now weeks before the election, GOP leaders are seemingly content to disregard the suffering of millions of American households for another month, and possibly into next year.

Tax Takes from Citizens for Tax Justice here. CTJ is a partner in the movement for transformative change. Find out more at http://ctj.org