On the heels of an almost $2 trillion tax cut mostly for corporations and the wealthy and with the Trump Administration slashing food assistance in a time of increased food insecurity, what does Steve Daines think matters most? Sensible tax policy? Targeted cuts and sensible tax policy?
No. What matters to Senator Steve Daines is cutting taxes again for the wealthiest Americans like himself, even if that means using questionably legal and undeniably unethical strategy to make it happen.
In a letter sent to Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin yesterday, Daines, along with other 20 Republican members of the Senate, is calling for a policy change that will index capital gains to inflation, a massive giveaway to the wealthiest Americans. In fact, independent studies show that almost all of the benefit would go to the richest Americans like Daines:
Independent analyses suggest that more than 97 percent of the benefits of indexing capital gains for inflation would go to the top 10 percent of income earners in America. Nearly two-thirds of the benefits would go to the super wealthy — the top 0.1 percent of American income earners.
A study at Penn Wharton showed that the proposal would increase the deficit by $102 billion dollars, with 86% of that total going to the top 1 percent of earners in the U.S.
Others project the cost to be as high as $300 billion.
It’s not just that Daines is proposing another massive giveaway to himself and his friends in the economic elite. The letter Daines signed isn’t a call for Congress to act, but for the Secretary of the Treasury to unilaterally change tax policy. It’s rare to see a politician max out on scores for greed and cowardice at the same time; by supporting this proposal that would enrich himself without any political cost, Daines has managed to achieve the rare feat. So much for open government and politicians facing consequences for their votes when they can call on fellow members of the aristocracy to enact it by executive fiat.
Given Senator Daines’s willingness to vote for massive cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other vital services, not to mention his recent support for slashing food assistance, it’s easy to conclude he believes it’s more important that he receive another tax cut than that we care for our lands and people in need.
It’s hard not to also note the irony of the letter’s concern for the economic plight of the elite and its claim that the current system “punishes taxpayers for the mere existence of inflation.”
Do you know what else is not indexed to inflation? The minimum wage, which is worth much less than it was in 1968, as the Economic Policy Institute notes:
When the minimum wage has been raised, the increases have been too small to counter the decline in value that has occurred since 1968, when the minimum wage hit its peak in inflation-adjusted terms. In 2018, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 was worth 28.6 percent below its peak value in 1968, when the minimum wage was the equivalent of $10.15 in 2018 dollars.
Perhaps Senator Daines, who has consistently opposed increasing the federal minimum wage to something close to a livable wage, can explain why that’s not a priority, but decreasing his taxes through an extra-legal end-run around the Congress and voters requires emergency action.
Yesterday, Senator Daines also took to the floor of the Senate to decry socialism in “the most vacuous resolution in recent Senate history.” While it’s become abundantly clear that Senator Daines has no idea what socialism is, the rest of us are becoming quite familiar with both kakistocracy ( a system of government that is run by the worst, least qualified, and/or most unscrupulous citizens) and plutarchy (a system ruled by a small minority of the wealthiest citizens).
Senator Daines will not stop until he and his colleagues in the Senate have transferred all of the blood and sweat and toil they can take into their grasping, selfish hands, all while decrying efforts to alleviate poverty, make college affordable, and provide access to health care as socialism.
And that’s the real emergency facing this state and this country.