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Beyond Criminal: Republicans Just Pulled Off The Biggest Fraud In American History

Moments ago, Republicans rammed through a tax cut that adds more than a trillion dollars to federal debt while undermining health care for millions. They will do so by violating all previous norms for major legislation, having held not a single hearing and rushed to a vote before the new senator from Alabama could be seated.

This bill isn’t just madness; it’s politics that goes beyond criminal, and a huge political mistake. The question is, why are they doing this?

As economist Paul Krugman points out in a New York Times column:

“The most disturbing, possible explanation for the behavior of Republican legislators is that they’re supporting legislation, knowing that it’s bad for both the country and their party, because it’s good for them personally.

Some Republicans have been quite open in saying that they felt compelled to push forward on corporate tax cuts to please their donors. But I’m talking about more than campaign finance; I’m talking about personal payoffs.

Raw bribery probably isn’t the issue, although insider trading based on close relationships with companies affected by legislation may be a much bigger deal than most realize. But the revolving door is an even bigger deal. When members of Congress leave their positions, voluntarily or not, their next jobs often involve lobbying of some kind. This gives them an incentive to keep the big-money guys happy, never mind what voters think.”

Krugman continues:

“And when it comes to the Senate, bear in mind that many senators are personally wealthy, meaning that they might be swayed by policies that enhance their personal fortunes. Which brings us to the “Corker kickback.”

Senator Bob Corker, citing concerns about the deficit, was the only Republican to vote against the Senate version of the tax bill. Now, however, he says he will vote for a final version that is no better when it comes to fiscal probity. What changed?

Well, one thing that changed was the insertion of a provision that wasn’t in the Senate bill: Real estate companies were added to the list of “pass-through” businesses whose owners will get sharply lower tax rates. These pass-through provisions are arguably the worst feature of the bill. They will open the tax system to a huge amount of gaming, of exploiting legal loopholes to avoid tax.

But one thing they will also do, thanks to that last-minute addition, is give huge tax breaks to elected officials who own a lot of income-producing real estate — officials like Donald Trump and, yes, Bob Corker.

Corker denies that he had any role in adding that provision. But he has offered no coherent alternative explanation of what changed his mind about voting for a bill that explodes the deficit.

We may never know exactly what happened with Corker. But there’s every reason to believe that Republicans in Congress are taking their cues from a president who openly uses his office to enrich himself. Goodbye, ideology; hello, corruption.”

Another answer may be that Republicans believe that legislative victories put “points on the board,” helping their electoral prospects, even if the bills are unpopular. Either way, they’re in for a rude awakening comes November 2018.

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