Opinion: US Tax bill crowns Donald Trump king of the swamp | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 20.12.2017
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Opinion: US Tax bill crowns Donald Trump king of the swamp

The US tax bill, the first key measure passed by the Republicans, does not even try to cloak its intent. It's an unashamed enrichment scheme for the wealthy and slap in the face for the poor, says DW's Michael Knigge.

After numerous embarrassing false starts, Congressional Republicans, goaded by President Donald Trump's relentless tweets, finally scored their first major legislative victory Tuesday by passing a massive tax bill.

Trump and his party will surely spend the next months touting the measure as the fulfillment of a campaign promise that will help "Make America Great Again." That is, as several independent studies of the Republican tax plan have clearly shown, not true.

Instead, what the tax bill will overwhelmingly do is make rich Americans richer. Under the revised joint Congressional bill, the top 1 percent of Americans would get 82 percent of its benefits in 2027, the bill's last year, according to a study by the Tax Policy Center. That is because most of the other provisions included in the measure are temporary and will have expired by then. But even when the bill takes effect next year with comprehensive tax cuts across the board, 5 percent of Americans will be paying more taxes than now while the wealthiest Americans reap most of the benefits.

Gutting the Affordable Care Act

But the Republican bill does not stop at providing massive tax breaks for corporations, wealthy Americans like themselves and the Trump family. An often overlooked part of the legislation actively hurts lower middle class and poor Americans, who stand to gain little from the tax scheme in the first place.

Michael Knigge App

Michael Knigge is DW's correspondent in Washington

That part is the gutting of a key element of the Affordable Care Act, the so-called individual mandate, which imposes a financial penalty on people who do not purchase health care coverage. Without the requirement, insurance premiums are expected to skyrocket and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that more 10 million people could drop out of the system. That would in turn lead to a rising number of uninsured Americans (again) and thereby threaten the viability of the Affordable Care Act as a whole.

Killing the dreaded Affordable Care Act, which despite its problems, has enabled millions of Americans to get health insurance, has been a primary goal for Republicans for a long time. The tax bill brings them one step closer to achieving that end.

But the bill hurts average Americans in another way that is also often overlooked. It is estimated to increase the deficit by more than 1 trillion dollars over the next 10 years, which will cause the same politicians who engineered the tax scheme in the first place to demand drastic cuts in government spending in programs benefiting primarily the poor and elderly to make up for it.       

Unmasking of Trump

Still, as important as it is to debunk the obscene Republican tax scheme, which the UN's special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights recently (and rightly) slammed as "America's bid to become the most unequal society in the world," it is equally essential to consider what it means politically for the future and how this money grab can be reversed.

First, for Trump the tax bill serves as his official abdication from his self-proclaimed role as the defender of working class Americans and his crowning as the "king of the swamp." Trump styling himself as the spokesman for regular Americans was of course always a ruse devoid of any real meaning. But this giant giveaway to US corporations and the richest Americans like himself, which was preceded by what The New York Times called a "lobbying frenzy," finally makes clear to everyone where the president's real sympathies lie.

Second, the tax bill shows that the Republican Party, despite all the huffing and puffing from some of its hardline Tea Party members, has the back of big corporations. While that is not necessarily a new development, the fact that Republicans — who once prided themselves on fiscal responsibility — have trashed that concept and opted for a bill which will lead to a new massive deficit, is noteworthy.

Time for the Democrats?

And finally, the bill gives the opposition Democrats ample fodder for next year's midterm election and the coming presidential race in 2020, as it exposes that the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans are beholden to the very corporate interests, the wealthy elites and the so-called Washington swamp they routinely decry.

Undoing the noxious tax bill can be done by a simple Congressional vote. Getting there and convincing Americans that they not only oppose Trump, but actually have a realistic plan of helping working Americans, is the hard part for a Democratic Party that is still struggling to find itself.                                              

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