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OpinionEditorial

GOP is hurrying on taxes so Americans won’t see the truth

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talks with reporters

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell talks with reporters after leaving a tax reform news conference on Capitol Hill on Nov. 30, 2017. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

Why is the Republican Party trying to pass a dramatic overhaul of our tax system at breakneck speed, blocking hearings, analysis, debate and public awareness of what the plan would do?

Even with the big rush, many people already have a gut feeling that this “tax reform” will be a nightmare for them, and they oppose it in polls by 2 to 1. The GOP can’t hide how slanted toward the wealthy the benefits are. The breaks to owners of private jets and huge partnerships — which economists say would not provide the economic growth Republicans promise — could be permanent. Tiny breaks for the segment of the middle class lucky enough to get them, which does not include most Long Island residents, would expire in a few years.

But the GOP is hurrying to keep average Americans from realizing that the details might make them even angrier than the obvious flaws.

The GOP tax plan includes big moves devastating to middle-class wallets, like lost deductions for state and local income and property taxes, student loan interest and medical expenses. But it also contains less-understood changes that undermine key initiatives.

The GOP tax plan is about serving the philosophy of the donor class. It would overturn the 1954 law that bars tax-exempt religious groups from politicking. It would kill tax credits for renewable power sources. It would end the tax-free bonds that have spurred construction of affordable housing, nursing homes, airports, hospitals and toll roads. The bill’s elimination of the state and local tax exemption intends to drive down spending on schools, social services, health care and other crucial services.

So the hurry is not meant to give Americans a big tax cut as a Christmas present, as President Donald Trump says. It’s necessary because given time to understand, voters across the political spectrum will demand the legislation be stopped.

The frantic pace that got a bill through the House of Representatives two weeks ago and has the Senate near a vote is now threatening to undermine their efforts. The Joint Committee on Taxation said Thursday the plan would increase the debt by at least $1 trillion. Any increase in the deficit derails the attempt to avoid the need for Democratic votes. Their fix, a trigger to automatically raise taxes was derailed by the Senate parliamentarian and now they must find new ways to raise revenue.

The Congressional Budget Office says the House version costs so much that passage would force cuts in 2018 of $25 billion to Medicare and $111 billion to other programs like Customs and Border Patrol and the Student Loan Administration. The Medicare cut, at least, likely wouldn’t bother GOP leaders, since such slashes to the social safety net are their next big goal after tax cuts. Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday that reducing Social Security benefits and increasing the eligibility age for future recipients are his next priorities. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said the same. And once their tax-cut plan starts escalating the deficit, they’ll have their wonderful excuse to do very unwise things.

If the GOP hurries enough on its tax plan, it might force the nation to choke down these changes, so different from what Trump promised in the campaign. But that won’t force Americans to stomach obvious unfairness, or the politicians who created it, forever. — The editorial board

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