By Horus Alas

There was a foreboding stillness in the air on Capitol Hill the evening of Nov. 30. A small crowd of protestors at the People’s Filibuster whom I’d spent the afternoon covering stood outside the Senate building chanting, “Kill the bill!” They had listened to Democratic luminaries like Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) decry the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which would tentatively have been voted on that evening in the Senate.

A host of religious leaders and healthcare experts likewise took the podium to voice their opposition to the bill. As the sun set and afternoon turned to evening, people shuffled in and out of the 50 or so person crowd. The air was brisk; the protestors at once scared and angry.

Around 5:30 p.m., an unidentified young man approached the podium to announce Democrats had filed a motion to send the bill back to its respective committee and postpone the vote. Senators had voted along party lines to either delay or hold the vote for the tax bill that evening, with three Republican holdouts having not yet voted one way or another. Sighs of relief were audible among the crowd.

A few minutes later, I was informed that Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) had agreed to the motion to hold the vote that evening. Available forecasts at the time pointed to an imminent vote on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and its likely passage in the Republican-controlled Senate.

For those unaware of the bill’s contents, here are some quick stats from the Congressional Budget Office.

Taxpayers in all income categories earning upwards of $100,000 per year would be given tax cuts across the board through 2027. To offset those losses in revenue, the GOP tax plan calls for gradual tax increases among lower-income groups.

Under the proposed tax bill, those earning less than $10,000 per year would allocate $1.5 billion in revenue to the federal government in 2019. By 2027, that same income category would be called upon to generate $10 billion in federal funds.

Meanwhile, those in the $100,000-$200,000 bracket would be given tax breaks of $64 billion in 2019 and 2021, $52 billion in 2023, and $55 billion in 2025. Taxpayers earning $500,000 to $1 million would be given tax breaks between $18 billion and $25 billion through 2025.

Tax rates would gradually increase for income categories earning up to $40,000 per year. Those earning $50,000-$100,000 annually would see tax cuts ranging from $16 billion to $23 billion, but the biggest deductions are reserved for tax brackets in the $100,000 per year and higher ranges.

In all, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is expected to add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit in the next 10 years.

Republican conventional wisdom purports that tax breaks for the wealthy will result in greater spending power for businesses, and hence, economic growth. But Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation ultimately found these proposed tax cuts will do little to bolster the economy, and instead precipitate deficit increases.

Paul Krugman of the New York Times notes how, “[Secretary of the Treasury Steve] Mnuchin has repeatedly claimed the existence of a Treasury report that — unlike every independent, nonpartisan assessment — found that these plans would pay for themselves, increasing growth and hence revenues so much that the deficit wouldn’t rise. But there is no such report, and never has been; Treasury staffers weren’t even asked to study the issue.”

The middle and working class will end up paying for federal tax breaks for the wealthy.

The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein proffered a powerful analysis of how tax cuts for the wealthy largely benefit older, white Americans, and can only feasibly be expected to be paid for by younger citizens who form a much less well-off developing professional class.

Politico reports that certain provisions in the GOP tax bill call for graduate students’ tuition remission to be counted as taxable income. On top of graduate students’ stipends — which are currently taxed — aspiring academics could see their tax bills swell and eat into their modest incomes of $25,000-$30,000 per year.

The tax bill as it stands also calls for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate provision. If citizens would no longer be penalized with a fee for not having health insurance, it’s to be expected that many would drop their health insurance coverage.

Greater numbers of uninsured Americans would end up destabilizing the insurance market, however, resulting in higher premiums for those with health insurance.

Speaking on Capitol Hill yesterday evening, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) observed, “[Under this bill], health care premiums for young people will have doubled in the next 10 years. [Republicans] are going to tax education, which will jack up college tuition … It’s an attack on young America.”

Rep. Ellison claimed, “The reality that we’re living in today is that we have the greatest amount of income inequality since the Gilded Age … That is the America they want to bring us to.”

House Minority Leader Pelosi described GOP motivation for the bill as, “they [need to] give a tax break to their wealthy donor class … We have to spare the American people the pain of it all.”

As the battery life on my phone began to plummet around 5:30 p.m., I made my exit from the People’s Filibuster. When it looked all but certain that this bill with its draconian measures would pass the Senate, I did something I had never done before; I called my Senator.

The clops of my footsteps echoed against the stone pavements on Capitol Hill and reverberated through the brisk evening air. I left a message for Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md), whose name I can remember marking with a check at the ballot box last year.

“I’m a freelance journalist, and I’m going to be a graduate student next Fall … ” I spoke into my phone, my voice wavering. “ … And I feel like this bill is going to fuck me over.”

There was no one to speak to on the other end. There was no human being with authority on the respect to assure me things would be okay when all signs pointed to the opposite. I left Capitol Hill like Quixote after his mad crusade against the windmills.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act didn’t proceed to a vote last night. In all likelihood, it will today.

If nothing else, its outcome will point out to us whether there is any dignity left among the people we elect to represent us.

Featured Photo Credit: Shots from inside the crowd at the bottom of the second hour of the . (Horus Alas/Bloc Reporter)

Horus Alas is a freelance writer and can be reached at heliocentricnonchalance@gmail.com.

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