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The state's four Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives can read polls.

They know their political bread gets buttered back home in acquiescence to Donald Trump's madness and embrace of his ego's obsessions.

So, there appeared a guest essay on this page the other day under four bylines--U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman. They wrote--or a staff member for one of them wrote, and everybody was happy enough with the composition to sign on--that the tax cut probably imminent would prove beneficial to the working middle class of Arkansas.

It would simplify your taxes and put some money in your pocket, they said. And that's all in the world they're trying to do, they said.

There is a basic mathematical fact deep in this self-serving spin.

While not so for certain other states--blue ones, mostly--that pay higher incomes and incur higher costs and encounter higher state and local taxes, the assertion of greater simplicity and more cash would hold true under this legislation for working folks in Arkansas.

Most of them don't itemize their deductions, and, even if they did, wouldn't even come close to running north of the proposed new caps on deductible mortgage interest and annual state and local tax remittances.

They certainly shouldn't itemize under this bill, since the standard deduction would go from $12,700 per married couple filing jointly to $24,000.

Rather than subtracting $12,700 of their household income right off the top, before taxes, they'd subtract $24,000. That's good for Arkansas working people by the same accepted rule that two and two make four.

Beyond that, their marginal rates on that income left over after the $24,000 subtraction--they'd be lower.

Lower rates on lower taxable income--arithmetic makes that lower tax bills.

These folks would lose individual exemptions, yes. But if they have costs of child care, those credits would rise.

A family of four on an income of $55,000 in Arkansas would get enough additional cash over a year under this bill to buy a new set of tires, probably, or at least to replace the two slickest ones.

There are four basic ways, then, for these working families to view the politics, economics and morality of their situations:

1.More money in their pockets of any amount is a help and appreciated.

Whether the government is sending massively larger amounts to the pockets of rich people is irrelevant, or arguably appropriate considering that those people pay more, and will provide a boon to the economy. Employers will have more money to hire, both from the large cut in their taxes and the new sets of tires you and your friends will be buying from them with your relatively small cut.

2.You are being played for a sap, and you know it.

You're going to get a little money, maybe, but, mostly, the hedge-fund guys and giant corporations are going to make out like bandits as always--because they ante up with political contributions you can't afford, and they write the law's fine print themselves with lobbyists you can't afford. And you're sick of being played. A new set of tires would be nice, but you cannot and will not be bought off with rubber and tread.

3.Maybe you embrace the first enumerated view sometimes and the second at other times. But you think the real long-term problem is the deficit.

It looks to you like cutting taxes supposedly to explode the economy and thus, in turn, bring down the deficit ... well, it amounts to a risky premise not proven by recent Republican tax cuts. And it's not worth a new set of tires.

4.Whatever. Send you a little money. You'll take it. Send rich people a lot. They'll take it. You don't care. And shut up about the deficit, because, as the guy said on the radio the other day, deficits don't matter anymore.

The issue is international relationships, not the human concoction we call budgets. If China makes stuff and we buy it, and if we issue bonds and China buys them, and if we get currency from that relationship while China earns interest from it, and if we're all happy enough with that--then where, pray tell, is the imbalance, or any deficit? They need ours and we need theirs. Our co-dependence is thus balanced, even while this artificial thing we call our budget isn't, technically.

Pick one of the four and be certain. Or pick parts or variations of any two or three, or all four, and be independently ambivalent.

Me? I'm certain enough to pick No. 2. But, mostly, these days, I'm ambivalent enough to walk around pondering No. 4.

I'm surer about domestic politics than international economic relationships. On that basis, I can tell you that this thing we call the deficit is always less important to those in power raising it.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 12/19/2017

Print Headline: Views to a tax cut

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