Republican tax plan won’t benefit many Mainers

Remember Question 1 on Maine’s November ballot, which wanted us to give one guy – Shawn Scott – the exclusive license to operate a York County casino so he could get richer? That’s what the Republican tax overhaul plan coming out of Washington looks like – except instead of one guy getting all the money, it’s 1 percent of the population.

I don’t fault the logic of the super-rich people who want to get more and more money: The cost of lobbying and controlling members of Congress keeps going up, and a steady stream of big checks is the price of admission to good schools, glitzy parties and attendance at “conferences” and “summits” in places like Aspen and Colorado Springs.

It is no surprise the mega-wealthy will keep their cherished charitable deductions under the proposed legislation because the entire social order of elite families revolves around throwing gala fundraising events that demand expensive clothing and coiffures in a vicious and fabulous cycle. Being rich and powerful looks easy, but it ain’t cheap.

What’s harder to understanding is the logic of the Republicans in Maine who support the proposal, especially those in rural districts where the middle class is shrinking and annual family income has been decreasing while Americans at the top of the economic ladder are having a banner run. Just 25 people hold more wealth than the bottom 56 percent of the U.S. population combined, according to a new Institute for Policy Studies report, and income inequality will be worse under the proposed law, not better. Taxes will basically stay the same or go up for many lower- and middle-income families so that corporations earning record profits can get a reduction in their tax rates and the super-rich can gobble up more of the economic pie.

Why would rural Republicans support a law that will not allow students in their small towns to deduct interest on college loans, so that fancy people can keep deducting fancy parties in the big cities or sprawling ranches?

The economic benefits for the average family in Maine are minuscule under both the House and Senate tax legislation, and they evaporate altogether over time. But the frosting on the cake is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act mandate in the Senate bill, which would effectively eliminate health insurance for the thousands of people in rural Maine communities who rely on it and who voted overwhelmingly to expand access to Medicaid under Obamacare.

And can we talk about debt? How can any Republican who calls him or herself “fiscally conservative” support legislation that increases the national deficit by an estimated $1.7 trillion?

In 2014, when Bruce Poliquin was first running for Congress, he campaigned on a promise to reduce the U.S. debt and deficits, claiming to be the champion of “struggling American families and businesses” that owed at the time, according to him, “a $17 trillion mountain of smothering debt to bondholders around the world.” He lamented that “Congress has no credible plan to pay off the debt.

“The annual interest payments on the $17 trillion national debt nearly double the amount we spend on veterans benefits. When interest rates rise, those interest payments will spike and crowd out our ability to adequately fund food safety, disease prevention, border control, education, environmental protection, national defense and other vital public services.

“Big government overspending, high debt and rising interest rates hurt our hard-working families in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District and across America. They drive up taxes and kill jobs. Big government programs entrap our families in dependency and poverty,” he concluded in a statement on his campaign website.

So what’s Poliquin’s plan now that he’s in Washington? Apparently to fully support a tax bill that increases the size of the mountain by $1.7 trillion.

The biggest government “program” is the Internal Revenue Code. It picks the winners and losers in the U.S. economy, and the reform proposal on the table gives rural Mainers the shaft.

Some things are not partisan. Republicans and Democrats who sexually harass and assault women, for instance, should be held equally accountable. I applaud Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for strongly denouncing the Senate candidacy of fellow Republican Roy Moore and calling for an ethics investigation into Democrat Al Franken. A massive increase in our country’s debt, especially when interest rates are projected to rise under the new Federal Reserve, is not partisan, either. It’s math.

In a bipartisan thumping, Maine defeated Question 1 because it was an obviously unfair giveaway to one undeserving guy. The same logic applies to the tax reform proposal currently on the table, and we should reject it soundly. Abuse of the system by ultra wealthy and powerful interests who can afford to co-opt the process with armies of lobbyists and big checks because it pads their bottom line should not be tolerated by people whose own financial security is threatened and made worse, regardless of which political party is pushing it – right?

Published in the Portland Press Herald 11-19-17