Republican Tax Cut for the Rich Just Got Even Sweeter for the 1 Percent

RTS1DW2R
President Trump and Representative Kevin Brady meet to discuss the Republican tax plan. Reuters

Update | The Republican Party's tax plan, already expected to boost the bank accounts of the highest-earning Americans, just got sweeter for the 1 percent.

The GOP has completed its final tax plan, which reportedly will drop the individual tax rate for people making $500,000 from 39.6 percent to 37 percent—a far-steeper cut than the House or Senate originally sought. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady is expected to release the complete details of the bill late Friday evening.

The top individual rate is much lower than it was in previous versions of the bill. The Senate bill had it at 38.5 percent, and the House bill kept it at its current rate of 39.6 percent.

Republicans said the change to the individual rate will be financed by a slightly reduced cut in the corporate tax rate, now set at 21 percent instead of the original proposed cut from 35 to 20 percent, though many corporations don't currently pay that amount anyway. The final version of the bill has yet to be analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, but previous versions were estimated to cost between $1 and $1.4 trillion.

The Republican Party has repeatedly billed its tax plan as a way to help the middle class, but critics say that it's a thinly veiled handout to the richest Americans—and that's even before Friday's top-rate cut was revealed.

"This bill would give big tax breaks to high-income households and would actually hurt many low- and middle-income households," William Gale, director of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, told Newsweek earlier this month.

Some experts worry that the hefty cost of the final plan will be subsidized with cuts to Social Security and Medicare, hurting poor, disabled and elderly Americans. President Donald Trump's treasury secretary suggested that welfare cuts would be needed to fund the bill this week, and House Speaker Paul Ryan has suggested that he will look to cut entitlement programs in the new year.

"The Republicans are now looking for ways to continue to advance their ideological agenda and their donors' interests, and it would not be surprising to me if they went after entitlement programs as the next step," said Gale.

Republicans are scrambling to deliver a final bill to Trump, but they can only afford to lose two votes in Senate—and not every one of the 52 GOP members are fully on board. Senator Susan Collins of Maine had already said she opposes lowering taxes on the wealthiest Americans. "I don't think lowering the top rate is a good idea," she told The New York Times earlier this week.

Senator Bob Corker was the only Republican to vote against the original Senate plan, but tweeted Friday his support for the final bill, calling it a flawed but "once-in-a-generation opportunity to make U.S. businesses domestically more productive and internationally more competitive."

Earlier in the process, he had said he was concerned about how the tax cut might add to the deficit.

"At the end of the day, I'm going to cast my vote as if I'm the deciding vote on the overall package," he said earlier.

Other changes to the final plan include an expansion of the Child Tax Credit, which benefits low-income families, added to meet the demands of Senator Marco Rubio after he threatened to vote against the bill unless the credit was expanded. Rubio has indicated that he is now happy with the plan.

Story was updated to include Bob Corker's late Friday support for the bill.