A Promise Kept;Tax Bill Redux

It is hard to say how many promises Hillary Clinton has broken. She didn’t get elected, so there’s no fire to hold her feet to or machinery to add the half truths and lies.

It is equally hard to say how many broken promises have been made by most of those who did get elected. The machinery has melted under the strain of counting them.

So how does one figure out who is telling us the truth about the the tax bill that will take the last 30 years of tax law and whip it not only into shape, but into good shape (or so we are promised), making everyone happier, healthier, wealthier but unlikely wiser? Common sense my friends, the answer is common sense. As a friend in Tennessee used to regale me, “If it walks like a duck, quacks, like a duck, swims like a duck….a duck it undoubtedly it is.”

The first question to pose is a macro (big) one, not one of minutia and potential misunderstanding. There is something about this tax bill that everyone on both aisles seems to agree on. It will raise, not lower the debt. The generally accepted number is 1.2 trillion (that’s will a “t”) dollars. Add that to the $19.2 trillion we’re already in the hole for. Remembering that not terribly long ago during the administration of the president who had trouble keep his fly zipped, we had a balanced budget. It is anything but that now, and this will up the ante. I ask you….no, you ask you, is that the legacy you want left to your heirs? That is question number one.

Now it would be a neat segue way to go from heirs right into that part of the tax bill. But as someone who lost almost 40% of his inheritance in taxes and legal fees, I choose to remain calm and just let you ruminate on that knowing my last name isn’t Kushner or Trump and my two kids and 3 grand kids would have been substantially helped if I retained that money. But if I go there we step right into one of the more senseless “gimmee’s” to the rich in this bill.

So let’s talk instead about the phrase chief economic adviser Gary Cohn used last week, “trickle down.” It comes from this famous economist named Laffer whose theory says the more you give money and tax breaks to the very wealthy for them to spend and invest the more money trickles down the economy to the middle and lower classes. These happy recipients spend it, boost the economy, and the cycle of spending makes us all healthier, wealthier and so on. The only problem is that there is no empirical evidence from the past two centuries that the theory actually works. Picky, picky.

So chew on this one instead. American industry has parked an uncountable amount of money in foreign banks. The reason? Their country’s taxes are lower. As soon as our corporate rates drop, we are promised, there will be a spike in the profits of the FEDEX and the shipping lines  as a scarcity of space balloons as planes, trains, and blimps are filled with money and flown back to American banks. Yes I jest. But have you heard one substantial corporation and its executives say they were going to do this, bring back all this money? That it was a good idea? That they would consider it? How they would invest it in our economy? Repeat after me: “No.”

Then there’s the biggest bugaboo of them all, the 30% corporate tax rate. It makes President Yellow Hair hair go vertical instead of horizontal. Het here’s another item almost every elected and appointed official agrees on. Almost no large US corporation pays anywhere near 30%. Most pay 20% or lower, some as low as 14%. This gives us some more cud to chew on. a) then do we say we have a 30% rate, instead of a 20%? b) if we don’t really have a 30% rate, then why is all that money overseas? c) is there anything in the tax bill that forces that money to be brought back here? Has anyone caught a whisper of a plan for using that money besides for dividends, bonuses, the usual, no less spent here? Repeat after me: “No.”

One more point. If this tax bill will put somewhere under $2000 in each middle class  family’s pocket and you live in a state where you have a state income tax, or real estate tax which this bill will no longer allow you to deduct from your Federal income tax (at this this week)……do the math and ask yourself what this bill is going to do for you and yours?

So as Winnie the Pooh would say, “We come to the end of it.” I end where I ended two weeks ago. Take the 400 pages of this bill, read some stuff on line and in the newspapers, read through a tried and true news magazine (Time or Newsweek for instance), avoid the talking head shows because their arguing heads will only confuse you, make up your own mind, and then share your opinion with your friends, your elected officials, the letters to the editor of your paper, on the side of the Good Year blimp–wherever. You can do this.

Trust me.

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