Opinion

JEFF JACOBY

That GOP ‘tax scam’ is putting money in millions of workers’ pockets

Employees restocked shelves at a Wal-Mart in Burbank, Calif., in August.
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News/File
Employees restocked shelves at a Wal-Mart in Burbank, Calif., in August.

It has been nearly a month since Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the most sweeping overhaul of the tax code since the 1980s. Of the 185-page bill’s many provisions, perhaps the most consequential is a reduction in the federal corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Among the tax bill’s leading opponents was Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who was scathing in her denunciation of what she called the “GOP Tax Scam.” Shortly before the final vote, she delivered a blistering speech on the Senate floor.

“Today is a terrible day,” she intoned. “A terrible day for the millions of working families in this country. . . . A terrible day for millions of people who just want to get on with their lives and not have Congress cost them even more money.” Reiterating a message she had pressed for weeks, Warren insisted angrily that what was about to be enacted was “a heist — a heist that steals from millions of middle-class families and hands that money over to the wealthy.”

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The full text of Warren’s speech appears on her Senate website, in a press release she issued on Dec. 19. She warned in that speech that there would be “a reckoning” if the tax bill passes, and that members of Congress voting for it would be “held accountable for turning their backs on the American people.”

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Yet Warren, so volubly against the tax law before it passed, has had almost nothing to say about it since. On her Twitter feed, where she deployed the hashtag #GOPTaxScam dozens of times prior to the vote, she hasn’t touched the subject in weeks. There have been no more press releases, no speeches, no
Facebook posts.

What is Warren waiting for? Even after just four weeks, the bill’s impacts are being felt. Why isn’t Warren, who prides herself on her willingness to throw rocks, loudly calling attention to the terrible things the new tax law is doing?

Perhaps because the new law isn’t doing terrible things.

For 80 percent of taxpayers, the new legislation will mean more take-home earnings as less income tax is withheld. But thanks to the steep cut in the corporate taxes — the “heist” condemned so angrily by Warren — millions of working-class families are getting additional raises. Hundreds of businesses, moving rapidly to share the gains they will reap from a 14-point drop in their tax rate, have rolled out bonuses, wage increases, and expanded 401(k) matches for their employees.

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According to a running tally by Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative advocacy group, some 2 million American workers have already been told that their earnings are going up. The nation’s largest employer, Walmart, announced last week that it will hike the hourly pay for new employees from $9 to $11 and reward longtime employees with cash bonuses of up to $1,000. The company is also expanding its paid maternity and parental-leave benefits, and creating a new program to subsidize the expenses of employees seeking to adopt a child.

Walmart is far from alone. The long and growing list of companies spurred by the tax-reform law to distribute bonuses and other benefits to its workers runs — literally — from A to Z. AAON Inc., an Oklahoma-based heating and cooling corporation, is cutting $1,000 bonus checks for its 2,000 rank-and-file employees. Zions Bancorporation of Salt Lake City is giving permanent raises to 40 percent of its staff and $1,000 bonuses to 80 percent.

Since passage of the tax law, billions of dollars have begun to swell the paychecks of millions of working-class Americans. Is this what Warren expected when she savaged the measure as a “heist?” With much of corporate America rushing to put more money into employees’ pockets, does Warren still think the law’s passage marked “a terrible day” for workers? Or can she concede that the bill she fought so hotly has turned out to have unexpected benefits?

Warren has been claiming lately that she isn’t as blindly partisan as her critics claim. Here’s a good chance to prove it. Break your silence, senator. Acknowledge all the good news generated by the tax law. You promised a “reckoning” if the Republican bill passed. Well?

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at jacoby@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeff_jacoby.