Sunday, July 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Making a regressive tax cut easier to swallow

Congress now appears on track to approve an enormous tax cut that primarily benefits businesses and the wealthy, adds nearly $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit and could lead to cuts in Social Security and Medicare down the road. It may become the only major legislative victory this year for President Donald Trump, but for millions of Americans there will be nothing to celebrate. The rich get richer, and the poor and the middle class lose again.

The Senate’s predawn approval Saturday of its proposed tax cuts by a 51-49 vote sends the final negotiations to a conference committee, which will work out the differences between the House and Senate plans. A handful of reluctant Republican senators were bought off one by one, and a vote on the final tax cut plan could come before the holidays. It would take a Christmas miracle for enough Republicans to regain their senses and reject the conference committee’s final legislation.

Except for Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the only Republican to vote against the Senate bill, Republicans are so desperate for a win of any sort they have abandoned their long-held opposition to deficit spending. Sen. Marco Rubio said last year during a debate that each of his fellow candidates for the Republican nomination for president should not leave the stage without "hearing a serious answer from every single one of us about how we are going to bring the national debt under control once and for all." Yet Rubio voted Saturday for this massive tax cut.

Predictably, Republicans contend the tax cuts will pay for themselves because they will spark economic growth and businesses will use their windfalls to create more jobs and raise salaries. Don’t buy this retro trickle-down argument. The nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation projects that even accounting for economic growth, the tax cuts still would increase the deficit by $1 trillion over 10 years. This would be fiscally irresponsible under virtually any scenario, but the details of the tax cuts rub salt into the wound.

Among the examples: The House bill would eliminate the $250 tax deduction for teachers who buy supplies for their classrooms. It counts as taxable income tuition waivers for graduate students and eliminates interest deductions on student loans, making it harder for many students to pursue a college degree. The Senate bill repeals the requirement under the Affordable Care Act for most individuals to have health insurance, which is expected to result in 13 million fewer Americans being covered.

How regressive is the Senate bill? In the first year, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center shows half of the overall value of the tax cut would go to taxpayers earning more than $200,000. Less than 1 percent of taxpayers earn more than $1 million a year, but the Washington Post reports they would receive more than 60 percent of the entire tax cut by 2027. The liberal Center for American Progress calculates more than 3.3 million Floridians who are in the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers will see tax increases in 2027.

As the House and Senate negotiators hammer out the final tax cut legislation, they should at least sand off some of the rougher edges even if it means reducing the benefits for the wealthy and for businesses. Adopt Rubio’s proposal to double the child tax credit to $2,000 per child and make it fully refundable. Keep the tax deduction for school supplies for teachers, the tax break for graduate students and the tax deduction for student loan interest. Don’t repeal the individual mandate for health insurance. Don’t repeal the estate tax, which already applies only to a small fraction of farms and businesses. Distribute the tax cuts more fairly to the poor and middle class.

Call it a Christmas wish list.

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Editorial: NFL calls wise time-out on disciplining protests

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Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Editorial: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s responsible budget

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn is shoring up his final year in office with the proposed city budget he released Thursday. The plan includes no big-ticket items, opting instead to maintain ongoing investments in parks, roads and other basic public services....
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Updated: 07/20/18

IRS making ‘dark money’ darker

Under a perverse interpretation of federal law, tax-exempt nonprofit organizations supposedly devoted to "social welfare" can spend large amounts of money to influence elections without publicly disclosing the identities of their donors. But instead ...
Published: 07/19/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

Editorial: Ferry is fun but should pay for itself in long run

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Published: 07/18/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Published: 07/18/18
Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

July in Florida. The height of summer tourist season. Rental cars clog the highways and tourists crowd the beaches, motels and all-you-can-eat shrimp joints. Many of our neighbors are off to North Carolina or somewhere cooler. So it’s an awfully inco...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/20/18
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
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‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
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