Why did the Republicans pass a tax bill that only 36 percent of Americans approved of? Why is it that when you call your representatives you feel like they're not listening? I say, “Follow the money.” Our Republican representatives had to pass this bill. Interest groups, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (or ALEC) and the Koch brothers, have bought and paid for their loyalty. This bill is payback for the special interests, it was their return on investment, and—don’t be mistaken—it has nothing to do with giving middle-class working people any relief.
Now let me ask you, why did conservative Republicans, who are traditionally fiscally conservative, vote to increase the debt by more than 1 TRILLION dollars? Hasn't the Republican party always fought to keep the national debt down? They voted to increase the debt because they have a plan. In the next few weeks or months, the Republican party will suddenly rediscover their fiscal responsibility. After adding a trillion dollars to the debt to give tax breaks to the very rich, they will turn around and say we have to do something about our debt. They won't admit that their tax bill hurt the bottom line; they will tell us that entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare are killing us, and we have to reduce spending there. Republicans use the word "entitlements" with such disdain, like they’re giving the American people something out of the goodness of their hearts. In reality, an entitlement is something you paid for all your working life. You’re entitled to it because it's yours, not theirs.
The American People made a pact with the government a long time ago. We allowed the government to take money from our pay each week for Social Security and Medicare with the understanding and promise that after a lifetime of hard work, when we hit the age of 65, we would have a small nest egg to provide for our needs in our retirement. But the Republicans want to change those rules, they want to move the goalposts in the middle of the game. As of today, for me retirement age has been moved to 67. For those of you looking forward to retirement, well, you’re going to have to work a few years more as the age to retire will continue to increase. So I may be 70 years old before I can retire after this bill. If you have Social Security now, they want to use a different formula to make it harder to get that measly 1 percent or 2 percent cost-of-living increase. Will these changes hurt the millionaires who just got a nice tax break? Nope, it's going to hurt us, the working class—the people who need a real tax break the most.
Republicans tell us that this tax bill is good for us, that giving tax breaks to the very rich and corporations creates jobs and makes life better for everyone. But it's a lie they have been trying to selling us since 1980. I have never received an hourly raise because my company received a tax break or, for that matter, even if they had a great earning year. Why? Because workers in today's companies are viewed more often as liabilities than as assets. Stockholder value is the name of the game. Therefore, there isn't any benefit to “share the wealth” with the workers who helped them earn it. As a business owner, you don't invest in liabilities, you try to minimize them.
Since I originally wrote this article some companies have stepped up and shared the wealth. Walmart announced they would raise their base hourly pay from $10 to $11 an hour and gave one time bonuses (the amount dependent on years of service) to their employees. Yet they also announced the closing of 63 Sam Clubs. I also noticed that the automated check out lines more than doubled allowing Walmart to cut hours to the same people who received the raises. FifthThird Bank also followed suit, yet the total amount shared with all their employees is only slightly higher than the amount the top 6 executives will receive under the tax plan. I applaud any raises or bonuses given to the hourly workers on the one hand but also fear what will be taken away with the other.
Ronald Reagan's tax plan gave tax incentives to businesses, but also cut Social Security.
My father passed away when I was 10 years old, and my mother and I received his Social Security benefit. In 1982 his tax plan lowered the age of dependent children receiving benefits from age 21 to 18 unless they were already enrolled in college. Luckily, the high schools and community colleges in my area worked together to accept high school students early if they had enough credits to graduate, averting a financial disaster for my family. However, for those families who had students younger than me, the financial hardship could not be averted. So I will continue to take a wait and see approach to see what if anything happens when the other shoe drops.
So what can we do? Well, “We the people” can hold them responsible for this bill and work to defeat them in their next election. We need to show up at the polls, and back up our words with our actions and our votes. We need to have a conversation with that “conservative senior voter”, who usually votes Republican because of social issues and explain how this is a pocketbook issue that will truly hurt them. We need to speak with young voters, the ones who believe they don't count. Our young citizens can be one of the most enthusiastic group of voters, when they are engaged. We need to find a way to engage them. We need to send a message to these politicians who are voting as though they work for special interests, and remind them that they will ultimately answer to us—the voters.