By: Connor McNairn, Columnist
I have often heard college students scoff at political developments. From many, I have seen skepticism regarding the character of our lawmakers, apathy pertaining to elections and a general disinterest in the function of our government.This weekend, our Republican-dominated Senate rammed through a tax bill that, if not heavily revised through committee and another round of House and Senate votes, could severely disadvantage – no, harm – millions of Americans. Unfortunately, both the bill’s contents and the process through which it was passed validate the aforementioned attitudes of this nation’s future generation.
Around 2 a.m. Saturday morning, in a 51-49 vote, the Senate passed sweeping tax reform. Beneath the legislation lie myriad tax cuts, many of which are dedicated for corporations and the richest Americans. But while the text of this bill is worrisome, potentially even more damaging is the process through which Senate Republicans forced the bill through the legislature.
The GOP passed tax reform through the “budget reconciliation process,” which simply requires 51 “yeas.” Usually, legislation passed through the Senate would require a supermajority, or 60 votes; but because the Senate has 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats, Republicans knew traditional confirmation was unreachable. So, in a tremendous show of partisan finagling, America’s current tax law was overhauled.
But we’ve only just scratched the surface.
Orin Hatch, the leader of the Senate Finance Committee, released official text of the tax proposal just one week before the committee pushed the bill through. Tax policy is tricky and dense, as is evidenced by the over 500 pages required for Hatch’s text proposal. How, then, can American voters be certain that the committee thoroughly studied the ins and outs of a policy laden with loopholes and alterations? Simply put, they could not have.
Adding to the opacity of this process was the Republicans’ controlled distribution of information regarding the bill and its qualities. GOP lawmakers offered the contents of the bill to lobbyists before journalists and Democratic lawmakers – a fact that illustrates the status of both money and a free press in the current American political climate. When the plan was finally brought to a vote in the early hours of Saturday morning, pen scribbles and other rough markings filled its text. The desperation and guile of Republicans pushing this bill are embarrassingly blatant.
The Republicans have often self-identified as the Party of “fiscal responsibility.” In passing this plan, however, it has proven itself anything but. The bill will add $1.5 trillion to the national deficit. Perhaps more egregious, however, is the fact that Republican talking heads have offered baseless justifications for the bill, claiming it would “pay for itself.” There is quite literally no evidence to support this claim. In fact, the Joint Committee on Taxation, a bipartisan organization in charge of analyzing congressional tax policies, has confirmed that the bill will add over $1 trillion to the national deficit in the coming decade.
2017 has been the year of political tumult. As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal deepens, President Donald Trump continues to tweet, and the Republican Congress connives its way to a major policy victory, while Americans are left scratching their heads. I understand that this process is exasperating. But now, more than ever before, the American people must read, learn, and most importantly, challenge the narratives that are peddled from this nation’s highest political offices.