In the weeks following Donald Trump’s inauguration, I enumerated the first three ways that the then-new president had disappointed his Montana supporters.
One: Immediately after his inauguration Trump signed an executive order threatening to gut the Affordable Care Act. He promised to replace it with “something terrific.” The Montana Budget and Policy Center responded quickly: Repealing the Act, it reported, “could have disastrous impacts on Montana, leading to 142,000 fewer Montanans with health coverage than if health reform were left in place.”
Two: Days later Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He promised that withdrawal would be a “great thing” for America, but the Billings Gazette quickly cautioned that “more than 80 percent of Montana’s wheat is sold to TPP nations … including Japan, which is also a top-five buyer of U.S. beef.”
Actually, withdrawal from TTP had two additional downsides. It threatened to increase the cost of every flipflop and flat-screen TV purchased in Montana, and it ceded further Pacific Rim trade leadership to the Chinese.
Three: Then came renewed ridicule of NAFTA and more praise of the wall between Mexico and the United States. Montanans who made a list of what they buy or sell across that border were alarmed: automobiles, machinery, medical instruments, mineral fuels, agricultural products coming north; agricultural products, mostly beef, going south. All of it threatened by the specter of an impaired NAFTA and a rising wall.
Unfortunately, the fourth affront approaches. I refer, of course, to the tax proposal that is whirling around the Capitol and toward the White House with indecent speed. Under the moniker “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” the proposal wants us to pretend that oil (i.e., tax cuts) and water (jobs) do mix. It wants us to believe a trickle-down hoax so hoary and discredited that invoking it is enough to make a sailor — although, apparently, not a politician — blush.
In a recent editorial the New York Times called the bill “A Historic Tax Heist … in which Republican donors pick your children’s pockets.” Your children’s pockets because the bill will increase the national debt by $1.5 trillion. Republican donors because of the way that the bill skews its rewards.
In Montana alone, according to the Department of Revenue, the state’s wealthiest taxpayers will receive 50 percent of tax breaks proposed by “Tax Cuts and Jobs.” Breaking down the tax breaks:
♦ Each of the state’s wealthiest households: $25,000 a year.
♦ Each household with an income of $20,000-$64,000: $788 a year.
♦ Each household with an income of $20,000 or less: slim to none.
The average household income in Montana is somewhere south of $48,000. Do the math. Are you an average Montana household that will see a reduction of $788 in your federal taxes while 3.4 percent of your fellow Montanans see a reduction of $25,000? Did you, like 57 percent of Montana’s voters, cast a ballot for Trump? If you are and if you did, please bear it all in mind when the next elections roll ’round.
Bruce A. Lohof is a native of Montana. A former professor and a retired diplomat, he lives in Vienna and in Red Lodge.