President Donald Trump and his fellow Republicans may have gotten elected as “outsiders,” “anti-establishment” or “populist” politicians, but with the support of the Trump administration, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has passed a tax bill that is breathtakingly dishonest, unfair, and immoral, echoing the worst elements of establishment politics. After negotiating the details behind closed doors, out of view of even their Republican colleagues, Trump and the Republican leadership laid out a bill that is straining under the weight of the massive giveaways to millionaires and big corporations—all of which will be paid for by raising taxes on the middle class and working families.
Under the proposed tax plan, an already underpaid teacher, in an underfunded and neglected educational system, wouldn't even be able to deduct the cost (currently up to $250) of the crayons and paper he or she purchases for the classroom. Setting aside that it’s reprehensible that teachers need to pay for their own supplies in the richest country in the world, removing this deduction will not “create jobs” or “jump-start the economy,” but it will have real and tangible negative consequences for anyone who attends or works in public schools.
This bill is full of provisions like the one described above: families in Kansas and Missouri would lose the deduction on their mortgage that makes it possible for many of them to own a home; while private jets would be exempt from certain taxes and ultra-rich families like the Trumps and Kochs would get massive tax-free inheritances, allowing the vast majority of wealth in this country to continue to be held in the hands of only a few. While the working class continues to pay more than their fair share, the new American oligarchy will rest easy, knowing their wealth is safe in offshore tax havens, as they take advantage of the same taxpayer-funded services as us. In fact, we would all lose our state and local tax deductions—which help pay for critical local services like public schools, police officers and firefighters—while massive corporations would still be able to deduct those same taxes.
This tax debate is more than just a partisan argument, it’s fundamentally about what we value as Americans. Do we really believe that we are all created equal? That we all should have the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Are we going to make the tax code fairer for everyone, or rig it even more in favor of the rich? Are we going to allow the President and his party to pass a tax plan that includes specific cutouts for real estate firms, which happen to be the family business? Are we going to help hardworking people, students, and the middle class, or give more tax breaks to big corporations? If this tax plan passes the Senate, we’ll all know exactly where Congress stands. Empty rhetoric about supporting families, workers, and veterans while upholding American values rings hollow when their actions favor only a tiny, ultra-rich sliver of our great country.
It should come as no surprise that working people, teachers, graduate students, and their union would object to tax giveaways that hurt teachers, public schools, and local property values, particularly when this bill obviously slights us by no longer allowing us to deduct union dues from our taxes. However, this bill is so tilted to favor big corporations and the colossally wealthy that some small business and trade organizations that would normally support corporate tax cuts – and even a few Republican members of Congress – are opposed to it as well.
Let’s tell Congress that we’ve had enough. If they want to represent us, they need to keep our best interests in mind. This bill supports campaign donors, multinational corporations, and the President’s wealthy friends. It does not support us. Call your Senator and remind them who they work for; they need to earn the votes of working people, and they should know that if they decide to raise our taxes to benefit their wealthy donors, there will be consequences come the next election.
Peter Federman is a graduate teaching assistant in the School of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas.