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Congressional Watch: Taxes and the internet

Posted: December 1st, 2017 | Congressional Watch, Featured, News | No Comments

By Andy Cohen

2017 has been, to say the least, a very strange year for American politics and governance. Republicans have complete control of the federal government, with majorities in the House of Representatives, the Senate, and control of the White House.

Despite that fact, and despite the fact that Republican politicians campaigned in 2016 touting that a unified Republican government would lead to a bonanza of legislative accomplishments that would “make America great again,” Congress and the Trump administration have exactly zero major accomplishments after almost a full year in power.

They are desperate and looking for something, anything, they can hang their “MAGA” hats on to show voters they deserve to remain in power beyond 2018.

The mountain they’ve chosen to make their last best stand before the start of the 2018 election cycle is tax “reform.” Yet the bill that passed in the House and the one being considered in the Senate have very little, if anything, to do with reform. Every credible analysis has determined that, if passed, the result would be a massive tax cut for corporations and the very wealthy, and a tax increase on at least half of middle class and the poor. It is truly a steal from the poor to give to the rich scenario, even according to the Congressional Budget Office.

As an added bonus, 37 of 38 well-respected economists — surveyed by the University of Chicago’s Initiative on Global Markets — determined that the tax plans being considered by Congress would cause the U.S. debt to increase “substantially faster than the U.S. economy.” The 38th economist, from Stanford, later acknowledged he had made a mistake and agreed with the others.

Included in the Senate bill is a provision that would strip the individual mandate from the Affordable Care Act in order to make the numbers work, which experts say will cause health insurance premiums to skyrocket.

Last month, as chronicled in this column, Darrell Issa (R-49) mounted an attack on California Governor Jerry Brown, as well as California voters, for the state’s status as a “high tax state,” seemingly voicing grudging support for the House tax bill despite the negative affects it would have on California taxpayers.

But when the bill came to a vote, Issa did an about face and voted “no,” one of only 13 Republicans to do so.

Before whining about high state taxes, Issa said in a press release “I didn’t come to Washington to raise taxes on my constituents and I do not plan to start today. It’s disappointing that the bill approved today will not provide the same tax relief to Californians as it does to the rest of the nation.”

Scott Peters (D-52) did not mince words in his opposition to the Republican tax bill. “This tax plan is irresponsible, counterproductive, unsustainable and anti-growth, because increasing the national debt hurts the economy,” he said.

Peters also noted that the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that by 2028 the cost of this tax cut bill will exceed 100 percent of the nation’s GDP.

Susan Davis (D-53) was not much kinder. “The House Republican Tax Bill shortchanges the middle class in favor of corporate special interests, raising taxes on millions of working families and exploding our national debt by $1.5 trillion,” she said.

Davis also pointed out that the tax plan was hatched behind closed doors, with Democrats completely shut out of the process and insisted that there are better ways to grow the economy “rather than the time-worn failure of trickle-down economics which is a ‘trickle’ for the many and a ‘waterfall’ for the few.”

And then there was Juan Vargas (D-50): “House Republicans passed a tax proposal that raises taxes on millions of working Americans to pay for tax cuts for the rich and corporations,” he said. “The Republican tax scam eliminates key deductions for families, students, veterans and seniors. Working families in my district will see their taxes increase with the elimination of essential deductions, including the personal exemption deduction, the student loan interest deduction, the medical expense deduction and even the educator expense deduction.”

The only member of the San Diego Congressional delegation to vote “yes” on the plan was Duncan Hunter (R-50), who sang the bill’s praises. “This has been long overdue. I cannot think of a more important action we can take to invest in our economy, create jobs and promote business growth than cutting taxes for American workers and reforming a broken code.”

Also coming down the pike is the FCC’s repeal of the Obama administration’s rules referred to as “net neutrality,” that guarantee an open, unrestricted internet. Instead, Trump’s FCC wants to allow internet service providers (ISPs) to decide what we have access to and how fast access speeds will be for certain content. It will allow ISPs to favor content that they own, while throttling down or outright blocking access to websites of their choosing.

In 2014 and again in 2015, Scott Peters introduced legislation that would make permanent the rules that guarantee a free and open exchange of ideas via the internet. “Strong net neutrality protections must be in place to maintain a truly open and free internet,” Peters said in a press statement. “The changes announced by [FCC] Chairman Pai would undermine protections that level the playing field for consumers and small businesses.”

Rep. Peters believes “Congress should do its job and make net neutrality the rule of law, not subject to the whims of whomever is the most recently appointed FCC chair,” said a spokesperson for Peters via email.

Back in 2015, when the current neutrality rules were installed, Rep. Issa blasted the policy, insisting that it would stifle future innovation. In fact, the opposite is true: Maintaining an open internet, where ISPs cannot determine what content consumers have access to, is vital to innovation. Giving ISPs control over what content we see will lead to less innovation due to a lack of access.

Issa, you may recall, also voted in favor of a bill in April that allows ISPs to sell information on what websites their customers visit, including online purchases they’ve made.

— Andy Cohen is a local freelance writer. Reach him at ac76@sbcglobal.net.

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