Welcome to the new gilded age
WASHINGTON -- Corporations are people, my friend. And this is where they feed.
Room 1100 of the Longworth Building, with its ionic columns, gilt-fringed curtains and eagle-topped frieze, has for 80 years been the home of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. But perhaps never before have corporations wielded their power as openly as they have here this week.
As the panel moves to approve the Republican tax plan, this is the room where it happens -- where the rich will get richer, where everybody else will be forced to shoulder a greater share of the tax burden, and where a trillion dollars of tax breaks for corporations are being passed by lawmakers who work for these very corporations.
In one case, literally.
On Monday afternoon, as the committee began its markup of the tax bill, there on the top level of the dais, three seats from the chairman, munching from a bag of potato chips, was Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi, R-Ohio. Tiberi announced last month that he's quitting Congress to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable, a group of "the CEOs of the state's largest and most influential business enterprises." Tiberi filed a notification with the House Ethics Committee that he was negotiating terms of employment with the group.
This isn't illegal or against House rules. But a lawmaker drafting and passing legislation that benefits the people with whom he is negotiating the terms of his employment? That stinks.
It's almost as bad as if, say, we had a commerce secretary who didn't divulge that he had business ties to Vladimir Putin's family. Or we had a president who, along with his family, used the federal government to further his personal business interests.
So it goes in this new gilded age. The $1.5 trillion tax cut has $1 trillion in corporate tax breaks. The idea was that the corporate tax rate could be lowered if you eliminated corporate tax loopholes. Now corporations will have the lower rates and the loopholes.
Individuals lose the ability to deduct state and local taxes, tax preparation, moving expenses and most medical expenses. But corporations -- think of them as Very Important Persons with superhuman privileges -- can still deduct these same expenses.
At Monday's markup, Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., quizzed a tax expert on this corporate exceptionalism: