The Art of the Steal: President Trump’s Tax “Reform” Spells Disaster

The Trump plan will give a big tax cut to the super wealthy. Put a billionaire in the White House and his tax plan is going to help millionaires and billionaires.

By Elissa McBride, AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer

Spending a weekend learning about the tax structure may not sound like your idea of a good time, but the two days I spent with AFSCME leaders in New Mexico back in 2004 were eye-opening. These were the days after George W. Bush’s big tax cuts were passed, and once we saw who was really paying the taxes in our country, we all got really mad.

We were learning about taxes and other kitchen-table economic issues to help us agitate and mobilize for the upcoming elections, and the data made it clear just how unfair the tax structure in this country was. The less you earned, the more of your hard-earned income went to pay taxes.

It’s not much better today. And if President Trump’s tax “reform” plan goes into effect, it could get much, much worse.

The Trump plan will give a big tax cut to the super wealthy. For example, it completely does away with the estate tax, a tax on inheritances of more than $5.5 million — in other words, inheritances like the ones Trump’s own children are likely to see some day. Put a billionaire in the White House and his tax plan is going to help millionaires and billionaires.

It also shifts the burden of taxes even further from corporations to individuals. It slashes the corporate tax rate to 15 percent — and a recent study of Fortune 500 companies showed that many of them made huge profits and still paid zero taxes for at least one year. Some paid no taxes for years at a time. The lower rate will make it even easier for big corporations to avoid taxes entirely.

Trump and his advisers — like the Wall Street millionaires Stephen Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, who introduced the plan to the public — claim cutting corporate taxes will spur job growth. But that’s a fantasy. We know it doesn’t work, because conservatives in Kansas spent the last few years experimenting with tax cuts to jump-start the economy, only to have the state go broke on their watch.

The failed Kansas experiment has had real consequences for Kansas families: cuts to public schools, canceled road projects, fewer resources for child support and other crucial services. Meanwhile, Kansas lags the nation in economic growth and job creation. School cafeteria employees, librarians, social workers, and road crews serve our communities with pride and passion every day. When services get cut, they cannot do the job the public deserves.

AFSCME members are the bus drivers who take your kids to school in the morning, the nurses caring for you in the hospital, the voices on the other end of the line when you call 911. We understand what it means to ask people to pay their fair share because we see what happens when big corporations and the super wealthy don’t pay theirs.

We need tax reform in this country to ensure the richest Americans — people like the Trumps and the Mnuchins — pay their fair share of taxes. But the plan introduced last week would move our country even further away from fairness.

Trump’s plan will deprive our cities, towns, counties and states of resources and increase the burden on working people to line the pockets of the megarich. This is not the art of the deal — it’s the art of the steal.