Merkley on GOP tax plan: ‘An incredibly cynical bank heist’
Merkley on GOP tax plan: ‘An incredibly cynical bank heist’
The proposal would add $1.5 trillion to the nation’s debt over the next decade
By: MARCY GORDON and ANDREW TAYLOR
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans on Thursday unveiled a tax cut plan that would slash the corporate rate and lower the personal taxes of most Americans but also limit a cherished deduction for homeowners, as President Donald Trump and the GOP seek to deliver on the first tax revamp in three decades.
The proposal would add $1.5 trillion to the nation’s debt over the next decade as Republicans largely abandoned fiscal discipline in a plan that could secure a legislative achievement for Trump and score a political win ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
Trump promised in a statement that his administration “will work tirelessly to make good on our promise to the working people who built our nation and deliver historic tax cuts and reforms — the rocket fuel our economy needs to soar higher than ever before.”
Middle-income families would pay less, thanks to doubling of the standard deduction and an increase in the child tax credit. Wealthy Americans, like Trump, would benefit from the repeal of the alternative minimum tax and phase-out of the estate tax. Republicans calculate that a family of four with a median $60,000 income would receive a tax cut of almost $1,200.
However, many two-income, upper middle class families would pay more after being bumped into a higher tax bracket and losing a valuable deduction on state income taxes.
“Today is the day. We are introducing legislation that will cut your taxes & make the entire system more simple. This will be a game-changer,” Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said on Twitter.
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, D, told KOIN 6 News the GOP tax plan is an “incredibly cynical bank heist by the republicans to deliver our national treasury to the wealthiest among us.”
“The whole point of this goal is to deliver the national treasury to the richest Americans,” Merkley told KOIN 6 News, “and we must stop it.”
Merkley also talked about the importance of improving the middle class instead of penalizing it.
“The problem in America is not that the richest 1% have too little,” he said, “it’s that we need to grow the middle class and have a foundation for every family to thrive.”
The proposal would leave intact the existing rules on 401(k) retirement accounts and the ability of Americans to contribute up to $18,000 into the accounts tax-deferred. But the plan would limit the widely used deduction for mortgage interest to new home loans of $500,000 or less, a sharp reduction from the current $1 million cap.
The plan also would limit the deductibility of local property taxes to $10,000 and eliminate the deduction for state income taxes, which has generated significant opposition from Republicans in high-tax states such as New York and New Jersey.
The tax-writing Ways and Means Committee will work on finalizing the proposal next week, and the GOP’s ambitious timetable to get a bill to Trump by Christmas faces numerous roadblocks. The proposal caused anxiety for some House Republicans and drew criticism from a few in the Senate, which is intent on writing its own bill.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., announced his opposition: “We need to fix this.”
The plan would shrink the number of tax brackets from seven to three, with respective rates of 12 percent, 25 percent, 35 percent and 39.6 percent. The tax system would be simplified, and most people would be able to file their returns on a postcard-sized form.
The plan would set a 25 percent tax rate starting at $90,000 for married couples, with a 35 percent rate beginning to bite at $260,000 — which means many upper-income families whose top rate now is 33 percent would face higher taxes. Individuals making $500,000 and couples earning $1 million would face the current Clinton-era top rate of 39.6 percent.
The plan would slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, a demand by Trump. It also would repeal the inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates, a big break for the wealthy.
“There are a lot of people still in our conference who are anxious to see exactly how this plays out with growth in the economy, what the long term deficit and debt situation turns out to be,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark.
Reaction among outside groups was mixed. Tax-cut activist Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax reform said the measure was “long overdue” and offered “great news for taxpayers and those left behind by eight years of slow growth under Obama.” But the National Federation of Independent Business, a GOP-leaning lobby for small business, announced its opposition and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the plan still needs work.
The child tax credit would be increased from $1,000 to $1,600, though the $4,050 per child exemption would be repealed.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tweeted an objection: “House #TaxReform plan is only starting point. But $600 #ChildTaxCredit increase doesn’t achieve our & @potus goal of helping working families.”
The legislation is a longstanding goal for Capitol Hill Republicans who see a once-in-a-generation opportunity to clean up an inefficient, loophole-cluttered tax code.
The plan calls for nearly doubling the standard deduction used by most average Americans to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for families, and increasing the per-child tax credit.
On net, it could mean tax increases for many upper middle-income families.
Republicans and Trump argue that sharply cutting tax rates for businesses would improve U.S. economic competitiveness.
The emerging plan would retain the Clinton-era 39.6 percent income tax rate for the wealthiest earners. But for that highest bracket, the tax writers raised the minimum level of income to $1 million for couples or families from the current $470,000 — a change that would reduce tax revenue.
Democrats have repeatedly complained the plan was too favorable to business and the wealthy, and contradicted Trump’s rhetoric of bringing tax relief and economic benefit to the stressed middle class.
“What we are seeing today is a plan that exacerbates the unfairness and inequality in our tax code,” said top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York. “To pay for all the tax giveaways in their bill, the Republicans are likely to make it worse for the middle class — not help them but hurt them.”