In the very first year of Trump’s tax cut, just 82 households pocketed over $1 billion in savings. That’s because the bill provided those with 10-digit wealth with a “diverse menu of options” to avoid paying taxes. Even the deep cuts in rates for both corporations and individuals was deceptive, because the real design of the bill generated exactly what resulted: massive corporations and the wealthiest people on the planet paying no taxes at all.
The process by which the bill was built meant starting on a core of Republican themes including dropping taxes across the board and giving the richest corporations a rate equivalent to some of the poorest individuals. Then it went through hundreds of hands within the House and Senate, all of whom made it worse in ways that were designed to benefit those who already had the fattest bank accounts on the planet. Even then, a “flurry of midnight deals and last-minute insertions” generated a bill that was more than a tax cut, it was a money pipeline—one with outlet aimed at some very specific pockets.
For those who benefited from the bill’s modifications, the collective millions spent on campaign donations and lobbying were minuscule compared with locking in years of enormous tax savings.
The Republican Party exists to service these people, and Trump’s tax bill gave them exactly what they wanted. At this point, Republicans exist only to defend that bill, and billionaires are willing to tolerate a little insurrection and a few hundred thousand deaths. It doesn’t just keep their taxes low, it keeps their taxes net-negative.
One of the factors that was most carefully crafted—and the subject of intense lobbying—was how the bill benefited “pass through” businesses in addition to traditional corporations. Under the cover of protecting mom-and-pop businesses, a carve-out was created that did generate a small tax cut for those “Main Street” operations even as 60% of the benefits went to 1% of companies. Most went to the top 0.1%. Johnson’s specific input raised the amount of profits that business owners can deduct. For the wealthiest, that intervention meant an extra seven cents on every dollar earned. For most people, it meant nothing at all.
In terms of individuals, when the results are broken down across the board, the top 1% of Americans by income received $24.8 billion in benefits in 2018. The next 9% got $12.3 billion. Everyone else in the nation—the whole 300 million people remaining—split $6 billion.
But what might be the most amazing thing about the documentation ProPublica has put together is just how blatant, how direct, the conversations between that top 1% and Republicans in Congress really were. For the Democratic members of the House and Senate, the text of the legislation was a surprise, arriving at the last minute before Republicans rushed it through in a party line vote. For the wealthiest Republican donors, the language was anything but a surprise. They were conducting meetings, offering changes, and iterating through versions until they got the bill just right.
The back and forth was so open that specific lobbyists pointed out sections of the bill as their work. At least one took credit for part of the legislation in his resume.
And this should come as no surprise at all:
Among the biggest winners during the final push were real estate developers.
That included giving real estate developers a “side door” to deductions that in other industries were tied to the number of employees, allowing developers to get full credit as if they were creating jobs, even as they were creating no real jobs.
Gee. What a coincidence.