Opinion

Opinion | Margery Eagan

GOP tax plan hammers the middle class

Representative Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, briefed reporters on the Republican tax plan earlier this month.
Al Drago/New York Times/File
Representative Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, briefed reporters on the Republican tax plan earlier this month.

Maybe you remember news of this startling claim:

Nearly half of American women — even married women earning six figures — fear winding up as “bag ladies,” wandering the streets, homeless, like a modern-day Blanche DuBois, depending “on the kindness of strangers. “

Single and divorced women fear it most, revealed a much-discussed Allianz Life Insurance Company survey of 2,200 women four years ago.

Advertisement

Barely above water, clinging to a slippery pole. That captures their sentiments best.

Get Truth and Consequences in your inbox:
Michael A. Cohen takes on the absurdities and hypocrisies of the current political moment.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Well, ladies, the GOP tax plan is here.

Do you have reason to fear?

“Yes, you do,” said US Senator Elizabeth Warren in an interview. Why? Because more women than ever are the family breadwinners. More are alone supporting and caring for kids, elderly parents, paying off college loans, trying to save for retirement in the thick of what Warren calls “the hammered middle class.”

And the difference between what keeps them above water, and what puts them under, is all up for confusing grabs in Washington.

Advertisement

This includes deductions for state, local, sales, income, and property taxes. For mortgage interest, medical expenses, student loans, tuitions, even for school teachers’ supplies — crayons and paper for kindergarteners.

The Senate wants to jettison some deductions and keep or cap others. The House wants to keep or cap some, jettison others. Both sides want to raise the child tax credit and double the standard deduction. Who knows what that means or if it’ll be enough?

Bottom line: Paycheck-to-paycheck earners must brace for a hit and weigh options carefully. Chunk light, or solid white albacore? The slightly better-off must decide: travel team hockey, or math tutor, or neither?

But this anxiety is apparently required so the wealthiest Americans can save millions, even billions.

It’s “downright mean,” said Warren, “ugly, economically dangerous.” And a massive transfer of wealth from the “hammered” to greedy plutocrats.

Advertisement

The so-called bag lady syndrome got lots of press in 2013, two years after Occupy Wall Street’s 99 vs. the 1 percent protests, two years before income inequality helped define election 2016.

Jittery sufferers insisted they weren’t paranoid but were legitimately scared about living so close to the edge, one illness or lay-off away from catastrophe. Bernie Sanders resonated. Donald Trump won the election at least in part because middle-class voters, women and men, had indeed met catastrophe, lost homes and jobs and hope. “I am your voice,” Trump told them, to ecstatic cheers.

Yet now we have a tax plan that throws crumbs to the scared while coddling titans of industry like Jeff Immelt (worth $211 million), who used to run General Electric (notorious for avoiding federal taxes) and who flew around the world with two private jets (one to sit in, one following behind — just in case).

The House tax plan makes sure Ivanka and Jared Kushner (worth $206 million to $762 million) won’t have to pay a nasty estate tax when The Donald departs this mortal coil, thus creating a permanent hereditary aristocracy for the Kushner-ettes and super-rich kids like them.

The Senate scam? To pretend to keep the estate tax, but raise the threshold so high almost no one will pay it.

Here we are with Trump’s money man Gary Cohn, ex-Goldman Sachs investment banker ($285 million severance) telling the “hammered” to be happy. With their $1,000 windfall, they can renovate the kitchen!

How would he know that $1,000 will barely buy you a GE stainless steel side-by-side fridge at Lowe’s?

And here we are, back where we started, like a modern-day Blanche Dubois, depending on the kinder of D.C. strangers not to pound the “hammered” completely into dust.

Margery Eagan is cohost of “Boston Public Radio” on WGBH. Her column appears regularly in the Globe.