Jim Hightower - Very rich donors are demanding lower taxes & GOP is going to oblige

  • Published in Columns

Sam Rayburn of Texas, who was a legendary Speaker of the U.S. House in the 1940s and '50s, offered this piece of ethical advice for lawmakers who were conflicted over whether to vote for the people of the lobbyists: "Every now and then, a politician ought to do something just because it's right."

Wow, ethics — how quaint! Today's House Speaker, Paul Ryan, has put his own perverted twist to Rayburn's ethics, advising his Republican majority to vote for anything just because it's right-wing. Along with Donald Trump and Senate leader Mitch McConnell, Ryan is now pushing for a rewrite of America's tax law that's so far to the right that it's horribly wrong.

Tax proposals are written in dense legalese and gobbledygook, but core purpose of this 429-page monster is shockingly easy to understand: The Trump-Ryan-McConnell triumvirate intends to take money from millions of working families and give it to the world's wealthiest people and richest multinational corporations.

Of course, when they talk publicly about their proposal, they claim it's all about "helping" you working stiffs. It's "real tax reform for everyday hardworking Americans," trumpeted our president. In private, though, they reveal to their biggest campaign donors that the plan lets them "help themselves" to the people's money, giving these corporate elites a huge windfall — "the biggest ever," bragged Trump. In fact, the 400 richest families in America would average $5.5 million in new tax breaks. Meanwhile, if your income is under $75,000 a year, you'll end up worse off.

The Trump tax plan — better known as the Billionaires' Bonanza — is not selling well among the great unwashed. Indeed, a two-to-one majority of the public opposes it, and only 16 percent believe it would reduce their tax bill.

But the people don't seem to realize that Donald and his band of Trumpeteers in Congress really want to help us commoners. How? By killing that dreaded "death tax," meaning that when you and I die we can give our estates to our heirs without that inheritance being taxed. As the president so eloquently put it: "To protect millions of small businesses and the American farmer, we are finally ending the crushing, the horrible, the unfair estate tax."

All praise The Donald for saving us!

But wait — the great majority of us don't own farms, businesses or big estates of any kind, so the estate tax doesn't apply to us at all. Also, 99 percent of people who do have farms and businesses are already exempt from the tax, for it only applies to individuals with estates worth $5.5 million or more.

I realize that Trump prefers grandiose claims over actual facts, but here are a few reality checks showing that his statement is false, a lie ... a whopper: Only two-tenths of one percent of American estates are big enough to be taxed this year. How many is that? Not "millions" of families, as Trump so dramatically asserted, but just over 11,000. Moreover, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center calculates that, this year, the estates of only about 80 family farmers and small business owners will be subject to the tax.

So who, exactly, are Trump and the GOP Congress "saving" from having to pay some taxes on their multimillion-dollar estates? The richest 0.2 percent of American families — including one named Trump. It's a giveaway that lets the richest of the richest escape paying more than $20 million which they owe to support the country that has enriched them.

Forget trickle-down economics, the GOP is practicing tinkle-down economics! Why would they push such an evil, shameful policy? Because it's not you common voters they care about, it's the moneyed elites they love and the special interests that fund their re-election campaigns. As one Republican pusher of this tax giveaway to the rich put it: "My donors are basically saying: 'Get it done or don't ever call me again.'" And that's what the Trump plan is all about.

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)