It’s hard to keep track of the fast-flying tax legislation making its way through the sausage-making process in Washington. It’s even harder to know just what’s in each bill, as the thousands of pages of provisions are constantly in flux. To know what’s really behind the Republican tax cutters’ priorities, cut out all the noise and consider just two things: private jets and trust fund kids.
You’ve likely heard of some provisions included in the Senate tax bill under consideration right now, like lowering the corporate tax rate and changing the tax brackets for individual income tax returns. Less discussed is how the bill treats private jets: A measure in the bill exempts private jet owners from paying taxes on all the costs that go along with owning a private jet such as storing it, maintaining it, hiring staff to fly it and cater on it, and so on and so on. In other words, this is basically a blatant gift to folks who own private jets.
Who likes private jets? Well consider the major controversy of Trump administration officials racking up seven-figure private jet fees on the taxpayer dime this year. Such behavior cost former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price his job, and probably should have cost others theirs as well.
The private jets provision is indicative of who’s at the table when details are getting hashed out in the Senate – the wealthiest presidential cabinet in American history. Also at the table: their multi-millionaire and billionaire friends.
The idea that private jet owners need a tax break is absurd on its face. Private jets are heinous for the environment, clog up our airports and already receive massive tax advantages. If you can afford a private jet, you can afford to pay taxes on it. That just seems basic.
Also underreported is the Senate plan to first weaken, then fully eliminate, the federal estate tax, a levy on the intergenerational transfer of immense wealth. The bill will give a tax break to just 5,000 people a year, all of whom will be heirs and heiresses to multi-million and billion dollar wealth dynasties. Seriously, in what world do these people need a tax break?
To really understand just how nuts this is, consider this: The billionaires who make up the full Forbes 400 list now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 80 million households or 204 million people — more people than the populations of Canada and Mexico combined.
Never before has so much money funneled into so few hands in the modern history of the United States. And what we’re witnessing, before our very eyes, is the transfer of that wealth into political power.
No one wants to see the rich pay less in taxes except the rich themselves and folks who think they’re about to get rich – but they’re not a majority of this country. Year after year, polling from Gallup (as well as a bunch of other polls) shows that most people want to see the rich pay more, not less, in taxes.
The backers of this tax plan have seen these polls, and they know that it’s bad optics to ask a nurse to pay more in taxes while the descendants of the Mars, Koch and Walton families, the nation’s three richest, all get handouts.
The folks who need a break are the 1 in 5 households that have zero or negative wealth, meaning they owe more than they own. That break comes in the form of basic public programs, funded by tax revenue, that form the backbone of civic society and generate economic opportunities for folks who weren’t born rich to build wealth. Eroding the tax base through tax cuts for the rich, and eliminating those public programs by extension, is bad economics.
This tax plan is irreparable. Congress should start over with the needs of working people at the forefront, not the billionaires.