The Republican assault on hard-working American families and the environment reached an unprecedented level late on Friday night, when the Senate passed what has been described as the most sweeping tax reform in decades.
In what is being seen as the most significant legislative win of the destructive Trump-era, the vast-ranging tax overhaul, notes the New York Times, “will touch almost every corner of the United States economy, affecting families, small business owners and multinational corporations, with the biggest benefits flowing to the highest-earning Americans.”
The Republicans were ecstatic. Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, called it “a great day for the country.”
Trump not surprisingly took to twitter, saying: “Biggest Tax Bill and Tax Cuts in history just passed in the Senate. Now these great Republicans will be going for final passage. Thank you to House and Senate Republicans for your hard work and commitment!”
Not only is this an ideological win for Trump. The proposed plans will financially benefit him too. Essentially this is a bill for the super-rich, at the expense of the Middle Class and poor.“As tax experts raced through the final text, they discovered other giveaways to the one per cent – indeed, to the 0.001 per cent,” noted one commentator.
It is not surprising that the Democrats were outraged that significant last-minute changes had been made to the bill “under the cover of darkness”, including some changes so rushed through they were in hand-writing.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, warned the changes” would “stuff even more money into the pockets of the wealthy and the biggest corporations while raising taxes on millions in the middle class.” He said the Republicans should be “ashamed” at what they have done.
Media commentators were scathing too.
“It’s politics at its most cynical”, noted one commentator for the Washington Post. Another Post writer argued that “Dec. 1, 2017, will be remembered as the day when the vast majority of Americans fully grasped the consequences of the 2016 elections … The party is running roughshod over democratic accountability and falling short of even minimal expectations of congressional decorum.”
The Paper’s lead editorial was equally scathing, saying that the Senate plan would add $1trillion to the national debt. “Republicans rushed through this massive change in policy with cursory vetting and no attempt at bipartisanship. They either do not care about the debt or they are so deluded by wishful thinking and fantasy economics that they should not be running a gas station, let alone the country. Either way, they just failed Governing 101.”
Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman took to Twitter to call the bill a “monstrosity”.
This doesn’t have to happen. Maybe the evidence will be so overwhelming that even under this Congress Trump is forced from office. Maybe the wave next year will be so huge that it overtops the structural barriers. But America as we knew it is very much on the edge
— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) December 2, 2017
Writing before the bill, Krugman had pointed out that “Remember, Senate leaders rushed this bill to the floor without holding any hearings or soliciting expert testimony (and tax policy is an area where you really, really need to hear from experts, lawyers and accountants even more than economists) .. there’s no precedent for this frantic rush to pass major legislation before anyone can figure out what’s in it or what it does.”
Krugman is not the only commentator to take issue with the flawed, rushed process. John Cassidy, from the The New Yorker added: “When a Republican Administration last conducted a thorough overhaul of the tax code, in 1986, there were more than a dozen hearings in Congress, and the process took more than six months. This time, there have been no public hearings, and the measure is being rushed through in a few weeks, with virtually no transparency.”
In the coming days, “The Senate and House tax bills will have to be reconciled, but it’s now perfectly possible that President Trump will get to sign the final legislation before Christmas”, Cassidy wrote.”If that happens, the process of getting there will have been a travesty of the legislative process.”
The bill also gives further tax giveaways to the oil industry, leading to Janet Redman, from Oil Change International to argue that: “the GOP’s generosity to the dirty energy industry in the tax bill stands in stark contrast to their reticence to fully fund climate disaster relief for Harvey, Irma and Maria victims. This isn’t reform, it’s a rip off.”
But it gets worse.
This tax travesty bill also includes opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which has been a battleground between the oil industry, First nations and the oil industry for decades.
As the Hill notes, “While the House’s version of the tax bill does not include ANWR drilling, the provision is likely to survive in the final legislation and become law if it reaches President Trump’s desk.”
ANWR is not a fight that will be given up lightly.
The Hill notes that “even if the policy is approved, ANWR drilling is far from certain. Companies are unlikely to jump at the opportunity to drill there, analysts say, and any exploration is likely years away.”
And every step of the way is likely to be challenged in the courts. Marissa Knodel from Earthjustice, said: “The fight to protect the Arctic Refuge has been going on for longer than 30 years, and it will continue beyond the pending vote on tax reform.”
A spokesperson for Greenpeace spokesman, Travis Nichols, also told the Hill: “When Shell tried to drill in the Arctic Ocean, they met unprecedented resistance. If Trump and his oil and gas cronies try to exploit one of the most vulnerable areas on earth for more profits for their dead-end industry, they’re very likely to see more of the same.”
Alaskan First Nations have been fighting ANWR for decades, too. In the days before the tax vote, the local Gwitch’in Steering Committee held rallies in downtown Fairbanks to show their opposition to the ANWR drilling plans.
Bernadette Demientieff; Executive Director of the committee, said: “It’s very a scary time for our people because the Arctic refuge, the porcupine caribou herd and the Gwich’in are entwined. We are one people, we are one with the caribou. They are a huge part of our identity as indigenous people.”