Republican tax bill opens up drilling in Arctic National Wildlife refuge, lets ministers endorse candidates from the pulpit, eliminates tax deductions for student loan interest, and imposes taxes on grad-student tuition waivers

I guess I haven’t been paying much attention to the finer points of Republican perfidy, and so discovered three things only last night:

1.) The Republican tax bill in the House (if it passes, it still has to be reconciled with a Senate bill), has a provision that will allow parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be opened for oil and gas drilling. The state of Alaska has been trying to get this done for years, but Congress has stood in its way. Now they’re caving. There is no amount of damage to wildlife or the environment that the Trump administration won’t tolerate in the name of capitalism. They’ve already proposed allowing imports of big-game hunting trophies, like elephant heads (though that’s on hold), and have passed a measure allowing hunters to shoot hibernating bears and their cubs, or wolves in their dens. These people have no respect for the lives or suffering of animals. And what does this have to do with taxes? It’s a sneaky add-on!

2.) The new bill will allow ministers to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, though churches still won’t be able to make contributions to political candidates. I agree with these humanists who claim that this now creates an entanglement between church and state (ministers are still allowed to express their private opinion in other places):

The Rev. Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said in an email, “The House GOP leadership and President Trump want to turn America’s houses of worship into centers of partisan politics. It’s a reckless scheme that may please Trump’s allies in the religious right, but could spark a blowback since the vast majority of Americans, faith leaders and houses of worship are firmly opposed to it. This is a bad idea that should be immediately dropped.”

Larry T. Decker, the executive director of the Secular Coalition for America, called the proposal in a statement “a brazen attack on the separation of church and state.” And the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty argued in a statement that inviting politics into the sanctuary is bad for churches, saying the House proposal “threatens to destroy our congregations from within over disagreements on partisan campaigns. … This change has been pushed by a tiny minority and is opposed by the vast majority of Americans and churchgoers, across party lines and faith traditions.”

If they’re gonna do that, then let’s eliminate the tax exemption for churches and pastors. This, too, is a sneaky add-on

3.) Finally, the Congress’s own joint committee on taxation admits that the new tax bill will increase the federal deficit by a trillion dollars over the next decade.

The bill will, of course, drastically slash the corporate tax rate, almost halving it from 35% to 20%, while it’s likely that the tax bill for middle-class Americans will rise. Mortage interest deductions are being slashed, students will no longer be able to deduct the interest on their educational loans from their taxes, and graduate students will have to pay taxes on the tuition waiver they get. Since grad student tuition is often high, but waived for many students, this will hit them with a tax bill that they may not be able to afford. I had such a waiver at Harvard, and I’m not at all sure I could have afforded to pay taxes on that. In the net, this bill is going to hurt American undergraduate education in many ways.

It’s hard to avoid seeing this bill as one aimed at helping the rich at the expense of the poor. I wonder if those poor schlemiels who voted for Trump might start to dimly realize that they didn’t act in their own interest.


  1. Posted December 1, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    How high is that swamp water Mama? — 6 feet deep and risin’!

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    “… they didn’t act in their own interest”

    Ah ah ah – I don’t think that’s it. I think those voters believe everyone including themselves would be a billionaire if only … if only … something.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 1, 2017 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      I apologize- I’d like to retract my “ah ah ah”

      It takes too long to write on here from a phone and errors and arrrgh

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted December 1, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      … if only OTHER PEOPLE weren’t GETTING AWAY with THINGS.

      For the record I thought of this before I knew about the Flynn plea bargain.

  3. littleboybrew
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    It is despicable, but I don’t know why you think that people who voted for Trump are sorry. They are happy because they are driven by the thought of winning. They won the election and now they are sticking it to the cry baby liberals.

    • Posted December 1, 2017 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Just wait until they have to get new medical care and pay their taxes.

      • GBJames
        Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

        They will blame Obama and the liberal media. They haven’t learned from Sam Brownback. Evidence means nothing to them.

        I’m depressed.

        • Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink


          I have to go back to Mencken:

          “As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

          — Essay that appeared in the Baltimore Evening Sun on July 26, 1920

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

          Conservative voters are fairly bad at judging what is in their best interests. They vote for quack economics just like taking quack medicine. I swear that bad legislation literally often works like placebos!!!

        • Posted December 1, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

          Agree as well. Trump plays two games – he keeps his base riled up with Twitter while he destroys agencies and programs whenever possible, repopulating the swamp with new species of scum. By the time his supporters figure out [if they ever do] that he his words and deeds do not match and that he has no intention on acting in their best interests, it will be too late.

        • Historian
          Posted December 1, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

          Take a look at this cartoon by Tom Tomorrow called “Checking in With Trump Voters.” It explains all. His other cartoons are great as well.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Already this bill is very unpopular with the public according to polls. Something like 65% against and most people do not even know what is in the thing. The bill is not in final form yet and changes continue to be made, so who knows. It should be noted that another item in this thing is taxation of colleges endowments. It will affect private schools like Chicago and tax their investment of endowment money.

    But total despair is not upon us yet. Noise is starting to come out that some republicans are having a hard time with the 1.5 trillion deficit this will cause. It is a complete piece of crap to put it lightly and will benefit only the rich. The treasury dept. was suppose to deliver a finished review to show how this thing would help the economy. The treasury delivered nothing because there is nothing good to say about it.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 2, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Already this bill is very unpopular with the public according to polls.

      So? It’s not like they’re going to be given another chance to vote.

  5. Mark Reaume
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    “The new bill will allow ministers to endorse political candidates from their pulpits”

    Maybe in the long run this will be a positive thing. If religious institutions get tied to the GOP then perhaps their popularity will lower the level of their political counterparts. People will be running away from religion faster than they already are.

    Bonus points for the cognitive bias I’m exhibiting.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Positive to gut the constitution and separation of church/state?

      • Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

        It wouldn’t gut the constitutional separation if churches were not tax exempt.

        If churches are private institutions, nothing to do with the state, then they have every right to get involved in politics, just as any citizen does.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted December 1, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

          Then I would specifically refer to the 501(c)(3) regulations – Publication 1828. Churches are not going to give up their tax exempt status so they should not be allowed to endorse any candidate.

    • Posted December 1, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      “If religious institutions get tied to the GOP…”

      What do you mean “if”? That ship has sailed.

      • Mark Reaume
        Posted December 1, 2017 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        I meant, if people perceive the church and government as one in the same (i.e. the Authority) then when they reject one of them they will reject the other. In countries where the church was working like this they enjoy much less popularity than it does in the US.

        (I was really just joking here but this may have something to it…I’ll have to think about it some more).

  6. Posted December 1, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Despite Drumpf’s lies (among others: “This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me. This is not good for me,” Trump said. “I have some very wealthy friends, not so happy with me. But that’s OK.”) about how this bill would raise his taxes, they had a nice analysis of the impact to his businesses on NPR yesterday.

    The vast majority of his business is a collection of “pass-through” companies (hundreds of them) that license his name. He (is supposed to) pays taxes on this income as personal income. He’s going to get a huge tax cut here.

    From NPR:

    … the new bill would allow income made from rents, royalties and licensing fees to pay the new lower rate. And of course rents, royalties and licensing fees make up a really big part of President Trump’s income. Instead of paying at that top rate, he will pay much less than that.

    Elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax – in place to prevent the wealthy from avoiding income tax with paper losses and deductions.

    From NPR:

    … his 2005 tax return was leaked. Part of it was. It showed he made more than $150 million and paid $38 million in taxes. But he only paid that because of the alternative minimum tax which kicks in when people with high incomes try to take a lot of deductions. If it weren’t for the alternative minimum tax, he would have paid a lot less, maybe as little as $5 million.

    $30M less per year.

    Eliminate or raise the threshold for the Inheritance Tax — obvious.

    And, Mitch McConnell goes on about how your average family is going to get Twelve Hundred Dollars! in tax cut (put your little finger into front teeth!).

    Drumpf’s supporters are behaving like willing marks. P.T. Barum (and Scott Adams) would be proud.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Latest figures from the govt. experts say the Trumps will see more than 1 billion reduction in taxes over 10 years. Corperate tax cuts will be permanent while individual cuts will not. So by 2017 everyone making less than $75,000 will see increases. The wealthy get 62% of all benefits and two-thirds of middle class will see increases. Best case outcome of this mess is .8% growth and will likely be even less.

    • darrelle
      Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      “And, Mitch McConnell goes on about how your average family is going to get Twelve Hundred Dollars! in tax cut (put your little finger into front teeth!).”

      And, not surprisingly, that is a clear lie. But, a minimum of 35% of voters will believe that lie rather than the in depth analyses of actual experts that are all in agreement.

  7. Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Trump and Congress are fairly desparate to pass any major piece of legislation. Oh, how I hope this steaming pile of a bill fails to pass (imagery intended). Not only because it needs to fail, but to reinforce the point that the Orange One sits atop a failed presidency.

  8. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Why is it rightwingers think that the only way to stimulate economic activity by the ultra-rich is to give them heaps more money, but that giving subsistence-level funds to the poor only turns them slothful and takes away their incentive to work?

    • Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      And, never forget that “trickle-down” has been proved not to work (to raise the standard of living of the working class).

      (I need to get these up to date):

      The rich got the money, and they kept it (duh!):

      Top marginal income tax rates have no correlation to employment:

      Drumpf and the GOP have done nothing to nudge this line:

      And Drumpf and his mates have happily reaped all the productivity gains of the last 30 years:

      We are already at full employment. How does Drumpf expect to work these miracles he promises?

      Lies, lies, lies, lies.

  9. BJ
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Fuuuuuck. It’s bad. It’s really bad.

    We all better hope they don’t manage to pass this. Let us pray…

  10. Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    I’m not a church-going person, but I’ve *been* to church here in the South. (Particularly during my teen years, my ultra-religious step-father insisted on it.)

    In my experience, pastors *already* endorse candidates from the pulpit. Or, more specifically, they will call the names of the candidates they DON’T want you to vote for. In my teen years, it was Bush-Dukakis getting all the attention. The pastor at our church railed against Dukakis as a “card-carrying member of the ACLU” (which is a bad word among religious fundamentalists) and the fact that he opposed the death penalty (our branch of Christianity was heavily in favor of the death penalty). In other words, without actually mentioning Bush, that I remember, he endorsed Bush from the pulpit.

    Yes, it’s an anecdote, but I remember being surprised to learn later that they technically weren’t supposed to do this.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 1, 2017 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Enforcement of the so-called “Johnson Amendment” prohibiting the endorsement of candidates from the pulpit has long been lax. The current proposal would authorize it de jure.

    • Jeremy Tarone
      Posted December 1, 2017 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      You beat me to it.
      Several organizations have called for enforcement for especially blatant public violations but enforcement never happened.

  11. Andre
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Hard to believe from a European viewpoint, I hope America gets well soon.

    Btw I think it should be “mortgage”, with a “g”.

  12. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    It seems to be just an all out assault on higher education to me.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Of course, that is where all the liberals live so they must be attacked.

  13. Jake Sevins
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    All my Republican friends still think they are the party of fiscal responsibility while the Dems are reckless spenders. Yet they happily sponsor a bill that borrows another trillion from our kids.

    • Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Well, at least for their holding the White House, the data emphatically do not support any such assertion on their part:

      Red parts are Rep administrations, blue are Dems.

      The last three GOP Presidents were deficit disasters. Drumpfie is lining up for more of the same.

      To me, it’s much like the 1980s, when corporate raiders draining so many companies dry to enrich themselves and leave the companies “leveraged”. They are “leveraging” our grandchildren to enrich themselves and their buddies.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 2, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      Yet they happily sponsor a bill that borrows another trillion from our kids.

      They might be stealing it from your kids, but they’re in for a surprise if they try stealing it from mine.

  14. darrelle
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    This tax bill is a disaster. It is also a full disclosure that the Republican Party is indeed intent on nothing more than raiding the coffers and damn the consequences.

    This tax bill, a laughable name as it is much more than a tax bill, is simply a raid. They didn’t even bother to model it. No need to because they couldn’t care less about its effects. They’ve gained access to the coffers and this bill is simply a list of all the places that they’ve found money to steal.

    The tragedy is the Trump supporters, some are loved ones, that are either too stupid or too ideologically blinded to notice that this tax bill reveals, with blinding intensity, that Trump’s entire campaign shtick of Making America Great Again was a lie and that they are suckers for buying into it. Which appears to be about 35% of voters. It is amazing to me, not to mention depressing as hell, that that number stays steady no matter what negative evidence comes to light about the Trump administration.

    If this bill should come to be fully enacted and remain so for a significant amount of time, a few years for example, then we will be well and truly fucked. Again. Hopefully it won’t be any worse than the economic disaster instigated by Bush Jr’s administration, but it sure could be.

    • Ken Phelps
      Posted December 1, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Odd how that 35% maps fairly well over the creationist demographic – a certain marker for gullibility. Coincidence? I think not.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 1, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, where are all the Tea Party deficit hawks now? In addition to all its other manifest faults, this tax bill would add over $1 trillion to the national debt.

  15. Posted December 1, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Conservative politics since ever: defund the public sector. Promote “meritocracy” or some other trickery where the correct class of people have it easy, while everyone else lives on hard mode (“tough love”).

    When public institutions fail because of a lack of funding and conservative obstructionism, blame it on the principle: “corporations do this so much better! The hand of God the markets can fix everything!”

    Also make the middle class pay for everything. This sours them up and they’ll despise taxes. Use this, to gain support for slashing taxes for the super rich.

    Republicans are, however, by far the most shameless and villainous instance of this. The consequences look dire, and small people will pay the most. Politically, the Democrats might need to do unpopular reforms, which will bring the next generation of Republicans into office, and the cycle begins anew.

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    The proposed tax bill also doubles the exemption for the estate tax (which Republicans like to call the “death tax,” even though only the richest 0.2% of the population ever pays it) from $11 million to $22 million — because if there’s any pressing need this nation has, it’s to make the idle rich even richer and more idle.

    The GOP originally sought to eliminate the estate tax completely, but settled on this as an interim step.

  17. tomh
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    And, of course, the Senate version, which will pass later today, also eliminates the individual mandate in the ACA, which goes a long way to gutting the whole health care act. They couldn’t quite repeal it outright, so they simply dismantle it piecemeal.

  18. Barney
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    My understanding (which could be wrong – I’ve picked this up from other discussions) is that the House bill was amended to allow political donations from non-profits:

    The Johnson Amendment right now bars 501(c)(3) organizations – from the corner church to the Clinton Foundation – from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

    Under the House tax proposal, however, churches, charities and foundations would be able to keep that tax-exempt status, even if they’re directly supporting and endorsing candidates.

    The original House proposal, Silk said, was narrowly tailored to just the religious sphere, allowing more political speech in sermons, homilies and religious teachings.

    But the bill was amended in committee and allows every 501(c)(3) to maintain its tax status as long as the political speech was part of its “ordinary course of business.”

    It has some people in the nonprofit and religious communities, like the Baptist Joint Committee’s Tyler, concerned.

    “We’re really worried that changing the law in this way would open the floodgates for political contributions to be funneled through all 501(c)(3) organizations, fundamentally changing the nature of houses of worship and indeed our entire nonprofit sector,” Tyler said. “And that’s why the vast majority of religious and denominational organizations secular nonprofits from across the board and across the country have raised their voices to ask Congress to keep the current law and not change it in this very troubling way.”

    Even if that doesn’t mean they can give actual money to political causes, I think that means they’d be allowed to pay for political adverts.

    As far as I can tell from reports, that’s not in the Senate version (but it’s hard to tell, which is yet another reason why this bill shouldn’t pass).

  19. jamesisdead
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    When the POTUS race began (way too early) and Trump immediately began with his vitriol and denigration of any person that was not a mirror image of the orange ape, my wife, and adult children soon longed for dual citizenship with Canada.
    Now that this dreadful subhuman has been in office bragging about all of his accomplishments, after only ten months, I am still unable to think of a positive accomplishment, I just can’t bear to fathom an additional 38 months of this administration. I would think that someone has to come to their senses and begin on getting this thing out from the Whitehouse but I can’t think that Pence would be any better. Only more challenging to impeach.

  20. Mark R.
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    A friend of mine owns a smallish boat that he keeps on lake Washington. There are a couple areas of the lake like Mercer Island and Beaux Arts Village where the lakeside mansions are abundant and piled almost on top of each-other. Many homes have luxury yachts with helicopter pads parked out front, or sea-planes, or smaller yachts. All have some sort of expensive-looking water craft. I’m sure their cars are no different. Every time I see these resplendent homes, I think: “no one living in any of those homes needs a tax-cut”.

  21. rickflick
    Posted December 1, 2017 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    An article in WP describes how this very same trickle down economics has been pushed by the GOP at least since the great depression.

    I’m a Depression historian. The GOP tax bill is straight out of 1929.

  22. Brian salkas
    Posted December 2, 2017 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    “schlemiel” – stupid, awkward or unlucky person.
    Jerry, you use the best words! This is one of dozens of great words I have learned from this website.

  23. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 2, 2017 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    Bob Corker (R) voted no.
    All (D) voted no.
    Bill passed Senate.
    Source : NYT
    Sorry no links – you’d think it’d be easy nowadays.

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