Several hundred protesters gathered on the steps of the Missoula County Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon to pan the tax reform bills now before Congress, saying that once the dust settles, the Republican plan will hurt working-class Montanans.
The rally, one of several held this week across Montana, took aim at Rep. Greg Gianforte and Sen. Steve Daines, each of whom supported separate versions of the legislation passed by the two houses of Congress.
Sen. Jon Tester opposed the Senate bill.
“At the base of all this lies economic injustice,” Erin Erickson of Missoula Rises told the crowd. “That’s what this is all about. This tax bill is an all-out assault on the poor and it’s deepening the divide. Not only will the poor be receiving tax hikes, but it rips away the safety net of social services that they rely upon – that we all rely upon.”
Both Daines and Gianforte have said their party’s tax reform plan will increase wages for working families and small businesses, and grow the economy as a result. Daines said a family of four with an income of $73,000 will see a tax cut of $2,200.
Tester, however, contends that the deal will fail to deliver as promised. While he supports tax reform in theory, he believes the current plan will lead to future tax increases on working Montanans and add more than $1 trillion to the national debt.
While the rhetoric from both parties isn’t easy to navigate, the Congressional Budget Office agrees that the current tax plan would increase the deficit by $1.4 trillion.
And while the GOP contends that its plan would pay for itself through economic growth, the CBO found that it would only increase gross domestic product by .8 percent over 10 years – well short of the 3 to 5 percent predicted by conservatives.
“This isn’t tax relief for the people, it’s tax relief for the rich and it screws the rest of us,” said Bill Geer of Lolo, who attended Wednesday’s rally. “Once the Republicans realize they’ve increased the debt, they’re going to come after entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”
Saying it wasn’t a partisan issue but rather a Montana issue, those who gathered on the courthouse steps blasted the tax reform plan as another handout to large corporations and the nation’s wealthiest citizens.
According to the Montana Budget and Policy Center, the Senate bill slashes the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. Oil companies with foreign operations would also pay reduced taxes on income from oil and natural gas sold abroad.
The Joint Committee on Taxation also found that the top .1 percent of households would see an average tax cut of $100,000 annually while families earning less than $30,000 would face a tax increase starting in 2021.
Chris Badgley believes the current tax plan would hurt his construction business.
“It’s catastrophic for Americans, for families and for all of us,” he said. “I get squeezed more in my tax burden, so I have to raise my rates, but the market doesn’t allow me to raise my rates. It’s just more fleecing of us citizens. This is a losing bill.”
Badgley and others at the rally don’t believe the GOP talking points that claim their tax plan will put more money into the pocket of working Americans or, as Daines contends, allowing workers to keep “more of their hard-earned dollars.”
Protesters also disputed the GOP’s philosophy of trickle-down economics, or the belief that saving corporations money will benefit their employees who, in theory, would receive larger paychecks.
Badgley, along with Jim Sayer, believe the trickle-down theory of economics didn’t work under President Ronald Reagan and it won’t work now.
“Thirty years ago, my first job was working in Congress for Colorado Rep. Tim Wirth,” said Sayer. “That was the year they last passed tax reform. You know how long it took them to do that bill? Two years. You know how long it has taken them to jam this thing through to where it is right now? Five weeks.”
Politico on Wednesday reported that the tax plan is riddled with loopholes and has left many tax experts scratching their heads. Provisions in the bill could be easily gamed, the report found.
“Even the tax lawyers are saying they don’t understand what’s just been produced by Congress,” Sayer said, citing the Politico report. “If tax lawyers are confused by this bill, don’t you think Congress should slow it down a little bit?”