On today's BradCast: While most of the corporate media are abuzz with the salacious news and political food fights between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon (and everyone else) stemming from the publication of Michael Wolff's new Fire & Fury book, the Administration continues to gut regulations, undermine the rule of law, and endanger the nation and planet in countless under-reported ways. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
We continue today to try to focus on a number of important issues that aren't receiving the coverage they deserve, but that voters need to know about as we head toward the crucial 2018 mid-term elections. Among those issues is the strange matter of the wildly unpopular GOP tax bill which, oddly enough, most Republicans members of Congress don't seem overly concerned about. Why would that be?
One reason, as cited by GOP leadership in Congress, is that they believe Americans will come to love the new scheme once they begin to see more money in their paychecks this year. But how much more money will average middle-class Americans actually see, if any? That may be up to one man who now heads the IRS, with an "Acting" title, even as he works for the Trump Administration's Treasury Department at the same time in what seems a blatant conflict of interest.
Remember the phony "IRS Scandal" that Republicans and Fox "News" and Donald Trump all still pretend was an actual scandal involving Barrack Obama using the IRS for political purposes (which the IRS Inspector General has since completely debunked with far less fanfare)? Well, now the President of the United States actually does have a ringer at the IRS, his unconfirmed Acting IRS Chief David Kautter [pictured above]. Could he be the "Ace in the Hole" for Republicans on their tax bill?
Investigative financial journalist DAVID DAYEN, who recently wrote about this for The Nation, joins us today to explain how Trump's ringer at the Internal Revenue Service may be able to game the nation's paycheck tax withholding scheme, beginning in February, in order to try and turn the tide in favor of the GOP tax scam in advance of the 2018 mid-terms.
"Instead of putting someone up for a vote in the Senate and going through the confirmation process, they just made this guy, Kautter, the IRS Commissioner, and there is nobody on the horizon who is set to replace him," Dayen explains. "So, this guy is doing two separate jobs, essentially. He is the Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy --- which is a position where he was working with members of Congress to put the tax bill forward --- and he's supposed to be the non-partisan official who is implementing that same policy."
Since most of the changes to the tax law won't be seen by average Americans until 2019, when they file their 2018 taxes, paycheck withholding is "the only way that people are really going to experience this tax bill between now and the midterm elections," says Dayen. "And they'll see that difference in their paychecks, allegedly, by the beginning of February."
But the way the federal government determines the formulas for withholding is "more art than science," Dayen tells me. The question is now whether Kautter, who previously worked at financial giant Ernst & Young assisting huge corporations avoid taxes, will "move resources toward making sure that the assumptions that are made in withholding work to the benefit of ordinary people, so that they get more money now that they might have to give back in April of 2019? But [that] will create the feeling that there is this boost from the tax cut that is illusory, and that might help Republicans in the midterms?"
Republicans, he argues, seem to be "really relying on this. They're saying, 'Just you wait and see, America. Wait until February and all of your questions about the tax bill will be answered by your huge gain in your paycheck.' There's tons of pressure, from both the White House and from Congress, to get this done."
Also discussed on today's show: Speaking of the new Gilded Age for corporations and the wealthy, Dayen's latest cover story for American Prospect on "Big Tech's New Predatory Capitalism"; HUD's just-announced postponement of a major new Obama-era rule meant to decrease racial segregation in public housing; EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt takes credit for the Obama EPA's work on Superfund site cleanup...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)