Sen. Merkley: Oregonians, watch your wallets (Guest opinion)

Sen. Merkley: Oregonians, watch your wallets (Guest opinion)


By:  Senator Jeff Merkley

Oregonians, you better watch your wallets: The biggest bank heist in American history is underway, and you may be among the victims.

House Republicans just passed a tax bill that they are marketing as a tax cut for the middle class. But in reality, it raises taxes on many middle-income Americans while delivering virtually all of its benefits to corporations and the richest Americans.

Senate Republicans are close on their heels with their own version. They want to pass it right after Thanksgiving, before Americans wake up to this travesty.

What do these tax bills mean for the typical middle-income family? Take Camille and Daniel Trummer. They both work full time as public servants -- Camille for the City of Portland and Daniel as a police officer. They own their home in North Portland, where they're raising a vibrant 3-year-old daughter, Naomi, who just started preschool. The Trummers are just the kinds of people who should get a tax cut to help make ends meet while the cost of living keeps rising, right?

You would think. Yet these tax bills do exactly the opposite. Camille and Daniel would be among the many Oregon families who would pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more in taxes each year to give more than a trillion dollars to corporations and another trillion or more to the richest 1 percent of Americans.

Middle-class families like the Trummers would lose key deductions. They would lose their ability to deduct the interest on student loans. They would suffer from double-taxation on the sums they currently pay for state and local income taxes -- a change that would really hit Oregon hard, affecting 675,000 families. Middle class families would also be hurt by many other provisions, like the loss of deductions for adoptions and medical expenses.

As a result, the Tax Policy Center estimates that nearly a third of middle-income families would see their taxes go up by the time the House bill is fully phased in.

To add insult to injury, this bill attacks healthcare for the middle class. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the Senate bill would knock 13 million Americans out of healthcare and drive up premiums. The bill would also force deep cuts in Medicare, harming seniors and people with disabilities.

In contrast to all of this pain for the middle class, the bills deliver vast benefits to the best off, from lowering tax brackets and special deals for real estate developers and hedge fund managers, to expanding the "dynasty loophole," which lets a handful of the wealthiest heirs in the country inherit fortunes without paying a cent of tax.

And unbelievably, after President Trump said he would fight for American jobs, these bills include a huge incentive to move jobs overseas.

If America has trillions to spend, let's not waste it enriching the best off. Let's instead revitalize our crowded public schools; create debt-free public college for all Americans; invest in living-wage jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure; and give families like the Trummers a real tax cut.

The president's top economic advisor, Gary Cohn, said of the tax bills, "the most excited group out there are the big CEOs." No doubt.  As Congressional Republicans work to ram this through, you can be sure they're hearing from the CEOs. If you think our nation's tax policies ought to benefit families like you and the Trummers, it's time to make your voice heard in Congress.