Editorials

Rubio scores a win for working Americans, but they’re still the losers under GOP’s tax bill

Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio said he could not support the tax bill unless there was an increase to the Child Tax Credit.
Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio said he could not support the tax bill unless there was an increase to the Child Tax Credit. Getty Images

At the last minute, Sen. Marco Rubio remembered where he comes from.

Florida’s junior U.S. senator hails from Miami-Dade County, in which six out of 10 residents struggle to pay for food, housing, transportation, healthcare and childcare.

It’s where 21 percent of the 858,000 families live below the poverty level, meaning they earn less than $24,250 a year for a family of four. Another 37 percent live above the poverty-line number but still can barely cover the basics. So a total of 58 percent of households are scrambling.

These are the grim findings of the United Way of Miami-Dade’s ALICE report — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed — released in February.

So it was only right for Rubio to threaten to vote No on the tax bill that Republicans are ramming down Americans’ throats unless his colleagues expanded tax benefits for low-income families, specifically, the Child Tax Credit. Right, and politically astute, his specialty.

He basically got what he wanted, a win for him and for low- and moderate-income families across the country.

Do we commend Rubio for pushing back? Absolutely. But it was a safe bet that he would get at least some of what he was demanding and look heroic while not standing in the way of a tax plan poised to bring immeasurable harm to working- and middle-class Americans anyway. And it’s a shame that so many Republicans went along. We saw little of the revolt, however meager, seen during the vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare.

The Republicans’ proposal would have capped some families’ credit for each child under 17 at about $1,000. Rubio on Thursday insisted that the cap be raised or else he would vote No on the tax bill. Republicans didn’t have a vote to spare. Still, they originally rejected his demand — because the money would have come from the reduction in the corporate tax rate.

Republicans talked a good game for a while, insisting that middle-class families would benefit from their proposal, cobbled together in the dark, eluding debate or public airing. But their own members betrayed the true intent to reward the wealthiest of Americans and corporations on the backs of the lower- and middle class.

“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley in an interview this month.” We’re sure Grassley was horrified to realize that he left out “or tuition or healthcare …”

The tax bill, hard-charging toward passage sometime this week, will give President Trump a long-denied win. But the losers stand to be legion. The final bill, which lowers the top tax rate for top earners, delivers about a $1 trillion tax cut for businesses over the next 10 years, leading to an economic surge, Republicans say. Independent studies and Wall Street say otherwise, arguing that any boost will be brief, and modest.

Ordinary Americans will see a temporary tax cut. They also will see that they can deduct only up to $10,000 in state, local and property taxes, a ding to high-tax blue states, in particular.

The bottom line is that the tax bill will make income inequality even worse. A year ago, Bloomberg reported that of all the big cities in the country, the largest gap between rich and poor is in Miami — where Sen. Marco Rubio comes from.

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