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Unrigging the System? The Kochs’ Orwellian Tax-Cut Strategy

By Alan Zibel

Donald Trump’s presidency has spurred many commentators to draw an analogy to George Orwell’s 1984. The classic dystopian novel invents a world in which demonstrably false statements, or in today’s parlance — alternative facts — become political talking points.

In pushing for the Republican tax bill, advocates use a strategy ripped from Orwell’s pages. Proponents of the bill claim — amazingly — that the bill is designed to make the tax code simpler and less subject to the influence of lobbyists. In truth, Public Citizen has found that more than half of federal lobbyists, or 6,243 tax lobbyists, are working on the tax issue this year.

But proponents of corporate tax cuts persist in putting a populist spin on policies that would benefit the privileged. Earlier this year, Politico quoted Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, a group founded by the billionaire Koch brothers with numerous ties to the Trump administration that is pushing for business-friendly tax code changes. He said, “One of the keys to selling tax reform is the president making the point that tax reform will unrig this economy by stripping out the special-interest deductions and carve-outs that riddle this code.”

Why this awkward rationale for a bill that would deliver massive benefits to the corporate class? According to Politico, the phrase “tax reform is about unrigging the economy,” polled well with swing voters. Koch groups have been sounding similar  themes all fall. An advertisement Americans for Prosperity claimed that “Fixing our broken tax system isn’t about politics — it’s about helping people. It means the powerful, the well-connected, politicians — they’ll stop benefiting from a rigged system. It means average Americans will have more to spend on what’s important to them. That’s what tax reform will do. So, what’s stopping us?

The Kochs are even trying to put a youth-oriented spin on corporate tax cuts, sending out young conservatives to knock on doors and even creating the hashtag #unrigit on Twitter, where it hasn’t exactly taken off.  In a CNN op-ed, the director of the Koch-funded Generation Opportunity, which promotes anti-government ideology among millennials, claimed that the tax bills would be a “big step toward” fixing problems in the current system: “Instead of rewarding hard work and entrepreneurship, the tax code rewards lobbying and “rent-seeking.” Instead of instilling a sense of fair play, it is justifiably viewed by tens of millions of Americans as rigged against them.”

The unfortunate, reality, however is that Republican tax cuts mainly benefits giant corporations and the wealthy, a fact illustrated by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

JCT and CBO: Senate Tax Bill Cuts Spending, Raises Taxes for Lower-Income Households to Help Pay for Tax Cuts

With Democrats mounting an effort to regain control of the House of Representatives next year, the Koch Brothers and their network of donors view tax cuts as a “do or die” moment.  Reporting  on a gathering of Koch network donors at the St. Regis hotel in midtown Manhattan, the Boston Globe noted  that donors “sipped champagne in the evening, and enjoyed white roses in the morning and purple ones at night.”  Members of the Koch donor network told the Globe they see tax legislation as “an inflection point in modern political history, a do-or-die moment that would define whether their efforts over the years will pay off or not”

Make no mistake. The Republican tax-cut agenda is driven by the Kochs and their mega-donor allies and would damage our country profoundly. Our robber baron level of inequality would be worsened by estate tax provisions that facilitate dynastic accumulation of wealth.  Our health care system, already the worst among industrialized countries, would see millions more without insurance coverage, rising insurance rates and Medicare cutbacks.

Corporations that have evaded taxes by parking profits overseas, often through financial engineering of questionable legality, would be rewarded with a tax holiday and incentives to transfer more profits and jobs overseas. The super-rich would be invited to drastically cut their taxes, through a simple maneuver of incorporation. Revenue lost from the tax giveaways are already leading to cynical Republican demands to reduce deficits, demands that will translate into proposals to cut Social Security, Medicare and other vital government programs and investments.

The public justifications for this horrible bill are transparently false. It will not improve the economy, it will not create jobs, it will not help the middle class. It will benefit the Kochs and other members of the donor class, which is the only reason Republicans are ramming it through Congress.

For more on the Kochs’ connections to the Trump administration, read our report. “The Koch Government“: