The Senate voted Thursday to massively increase income inequality in the United States by using the power of the federal government to redistribute wealth upward. By a narrow 51-49 vote, the chamber backed a budget measure that clears the way for Republicans to enact epic tax cuts for corporate elites, mega-millionaires and billionaires.
How epic? “At a time of massive income inequality, this budget provides $1.9 trillion in tax breaks for the top 1 percent,” argued Senator Bernie Sanders. “This is not a bad budget bill, it is a horrific budget bill.”
Sanders was not alone in his assessment. As the Los Angeles Times noted, Senate Republicans approved massive deficits in order “to pay for Trump’s tax cuts.”
The horrible budget bill—which allows for the implementation of sweeping tax cuts for the rich without bipartisan support and without controls on the use of deficits to fund those tax cuts—won only the votes of Republicans.
Forty-six Democrats, two independents who caucus with the Democrats (Sanders and Maine Senator Angus King), and one Republican (Kentucky’s Rand Paul, who has objected to Pentagon-spending hikes) voted no.
One of the budget’s most ardent foes, Wisconsin Democrat Senator Tammy Baldwin, argues that
This budget resolution paves the way for a partisan tax proposal that favors big corporations and gives a majority of the tax breaks to the wealthiest 1 percent. I just don’t think it’s right to make Wisconsin’s hardworking middle class families pay for it by blowing a hole in the deficit and cutting Medicare and Medicaid.
Sanders and Baldwin exposed the true agenda of the Trump administration and congressional Republicans with a pair of amendments that clarified the tax and deficit issues.
The Sanders amendment sought to prevent tax cuts for the top 1 percent of Americans, including billionaire campaign donors such as David and Charles Koch, whose enthusiasm for the Trump administration’s “tax reform” schemes was summed up by a Boston Globe headline that read: “The Koch brothers (and their friends) want President Trump’s tax cut. Very badly.” Tim Phillips, the president of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity cabal, announced that the push for the tax cut is “the most significant federal effort we’ve ever taken on.”
That significance is measured not just in benefits to the Koch brothers and their billionaire friends but also in cuts to programs that serve the great mass of Americans. To avert the shift of money to the Kochs, Sanders proposed a simple standard that would have directed tax cuts that are outlined in any reform package to the 99 percent of Americans who are neither mega-millionaires nor billionaires.