On Wednesday, after months of vague promises and in the wake of yet another healthcare meltdown on Capitol Hill, Donald Trump unveiled his plan for overhauling America's tax code. The proposal, which remains characteristically sketchy, could add trillions to the national debt by providing generous tax cuts to some of the nation's wealthiest, while National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn admitted Thursday morning he "can't guarantee" it won't cause taxes to go up on some middle-class families.
Of course, Trump's plan was dreamed up by people with scant histories of looking out for ordinary Americans: Cohn (formerly of Goldman Sachs), Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (a former Goldman guy who was once known as the "foreclosure king"), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, among others. It promises to repeal the estate tax, which only applies to the top 0.2 percent of Americans and would save the president himself millions. It would also do away with the Alternative Minimum Tax, which as the New York Times notes forced Trump "to pay $31 million in additional taxes" in 2005. Based on what we know now and the people crafting it, it's hard to imagine the plan doing much besides further padding the bank accounts of the already mega-rich.
But while policy wonks debate the merits of this proposal, I wanted to check in with some of the people poised to benefit the most from huge new tax cuts in hopes of gaining fresh perspective. So I spoke to several Americans who have earned at least $389,436 annually, a benchmark for the top One Percent nationally. Here's what they had to say.
Shark Tank investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who has an estimated net worth of $3.3 billion
On the corporate side, the plan rests on the theory that lower taxes will lead to higher wages and more investment. I would move from theory to actuals—meaning, I would go to the CEOs of the 5,000 largest profitable companies and ask them to commit to increasing the wages for all their hourly employees and lowest 20 percent [of] salaried workers by at least 10 percent. I would ask them to commit to not increasing dividends or doing stock buy-backs for five years. If I got that commitment, I am good with the corporate tax cuts. If not, no.
It's 2017, not 1986. It's time to leverage technology to get commitments from those who influence the economy, but not through legislation. It would be easy to go to the companies that influence the economy and ask them to sign and publicly produce a commitment to raise wages. Think of it like Grover Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge. For the public companies, it would be easy to see whether or not they [raised wages for their lowest salaried workers].
Founder of the marketing firm Zimmerman/Edelson Inc, Democratic National Committee member, and political commentator
This is the biggest over-sold, over-promised production since Spiderman: The Musical. There is no tax plan. It is, at best, a bunch of right-wing talking points on the back of a cocktail napkin. Let's get down to what's real here: the premise that tax breaks for the super rich will benefit the rest of society is a failed argument, especially in an economy that is recovering, with 4 percent unemployment. We already have warnings that this plan could lead to a rise in interest rates, which would diminish any potential benefit.
Gary Cohn said today on ABC that he could see some middle-class people paying more money. It's another example of why the Republican right wing and Donald Trump are not interested in any tax reform—they're committed to a tax giveaway for their circle of friends.
It's not just welfare for the rich; it places an additional burden on the middle class. If this concept gets implemented as it's now described, it would increase the deficit by more than $2 trillion over ten years. Who pays for servicing the deficit? Middle-class taxpayers do. You can't minimize the significance of that. The tax plan they propose would be a windfall for the upper echelon of society and stick the middle class with paying more to service the debt.
It's one thing to say in a recession that this would an economic boost, but we have an economy that's moving along pretty well in terms of unemployment being low, in terms of jobs being created. We could do more to raise income, but there's nothing here to indicate that incomes are going to go up.
Early investor in companies like Twitter and Uber, whose net worth is estimated to be $1.18 billion
Millions of kids can't afford lunch at school, yet Trump wants to give guys like me millions of extra dollars? This is the same trickle-down garbage Republicans have been peddling for 40 years. All it does it make life shittier for hardworking American families while encouraging the rich to invest in another Juicero.
Hollywood screenwriter and novelist, whose average annual income is $400,000
It wouldn't matter if I earned ten times more than I do, I would still be morally disgusted by any tax plan that further enriched the wealthy. Since I began adult life as a struggling artist in the late 70s, the cost of living has risen astronomically, and yet wages have remained stagnant. All the while, the salaries of CEOs have risen 997 percent. The ever-widening gap between the One Percent and everyone else is based on a rigged system, what Gore Vidal described as socialism for the rich and dog-eat-dog capitalism for everyone else. In the aftermath of the Wall Street–driven financial crisis of 2007–8, nothing was done to correct the evil. Instead, the top O ne Percent derived almost all the benefits of the recovery. Income inequality, entrenched by the Citizen United decision, is a cancer at the core of the American Dream. It has turned our democracy into a flagrant plutocracy. And what is the response of the one-percent? To ask for more money. The most egregious example of this in the GOP tax plan is the proposed end to the estate tax. Sanctimoniously sold to us as an aid to family farmers, it's actually a gigantic windfall for Trump and his greedy ilk. When the 99 Percent figure out what has been done to them—whether now or in another generation—there will be help to pay. The One Percent will rue the day they did not correct course when there was still a chance.
Publisher of the Baffler, who is comfortably in the One Percent
The plan is so vague right now that my taxes might go down or possibly up, since I live in New York, and the state and local tax deduction is on cutting table to pay for corporate rate cuts. But my taxes are already criminally low—half of what I would have paid in the 1990s. Inequality is a disease that poisons society and stunts lives, and every tax measure on offer would increase it. It is class warfare.
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