Explain This

How the Senate Tax Bill Hurts Women


Trump touts the Republican plan as a savior for the middle class, but unless you’re rich, white, and male, it feels more like a sucker punch.



The GOP tax bill is on track to pass this week, in no small part because Republicans need to ram it through before Doug Jones is seated, and it is as bad as you thought it would be. It does, of course, reward rich people, ultimately at the expense of middle- and low-income people, but there are provisions in it that will hit women and children particularly hard.

First, the version of the tax bill that looks likely to pass will repeal the individual mandate of Obamacare in order to throw an additional $300 billion or so at rich people and corporations. That results in roughly 13 million fewer people having insurance over the next 10 years. Of course, that will result in both men and women losing insurance. However, being pushed out, or priced out, of the market will affect reproductive health benefits for women in some key ways. If you get insurance through the exchanges, your birth control is covered without a co-pay. If you lose that insurance, you’re back to paying for birth control out of pocket. This makes it far less likely that women can afford IUDs or monthly birth control pills, and far more likely they may have to stop using birth control altogether. And, of course, many women will have to go without maternity care as well.

But don’t stop having babies, says Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. In fact, Ryan thinks people should have more children so that we can keep things like Medicare and Social Security solvent. But of course, Ryan and his merry band of nihilists don’t actually want to keep those things solvent. They are already planning on cutting them, along with Medicare, so they can “tackle the deficit and the debt.” Of course, the tax bill looks to increase the deficit to the tune of $1.5 trillion, which is just another way of ensuring that Republicans get to make those cuts in the very near future.

The fact that this corporate giveaway will likely result in cuts to Medicaid will hit women disproportionately. Medicaid covers 25 million women. Currently, almost half of all the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid. Much of that coverage is for women who are already in what is defined as “vulnerable populations”—single parents, women of color, and women in poor health. When this deficit-exploding tax bill becomes law, this already-frayed part of the social safety net will be gone, leaving women utterly unprotected.

And if you did decide to have a child, or already have a child, this tax bill is no friend to you. Marco Rubio got himself a lot of positive press for pretending that he might oppose the bill unless there was an increase in the refundable portion of the child tax care credit. Currently, the tax code allows for a $1,000 deduction per child. If you don’t make enough to pay taxes, a portion of that deduction is refundable. The new tax bill bumps that deduction up to $2,000, with $1,100 of that refundable. Rubio was ostensibly holding out until he saw that deduction portion increase.

Rubio got his way, and if you’re too poor to pay any taxes at all, you would now see a $1,400 refund. Yes, that’s a whopping $300 extra for the entire year, or $25 per month. Nobody can change the quality of their life—or the quality of their children’s lives— with an extra $25 per month. And for some low-income families with children, they won’t even see that. They’ll get an extra $75 per year. If your family makes $400,000 per year, however, you could see a $4,000 per year increase in the child tax credit thanks to the fact that the bill increases the threshold at which families receive the credit. Even when ostensibly helping low-income people, the GOP just can’t resist turning things into a giveaway to the rich.

The administration has trotted out Ivanka Trump to explain how the tax bill is great for women because portions of the media are still pretending that Ivanka is some sort of feminist. Part of why we have to listen to Ivanka is that the tax bill theoretically has a family leave plan in it, but it’s a complete joke. For starters, it doesn’t actually give any money directly to parents. Instead, companies can get a tax credit if they’ll give people paid time off for family or medical leave. However, companies can give employees as little as two weeks of time off. Since companies don’t see the credit until the end of the year, there’s a real chance they won’t feel incentivized to offer the leave. Oh, and it expires in 2019.

If you’re married and working and you’ve been deducting state and local taxes, you lose under this bill too. Republicans originally tried to eliminate the state and local taxes deduction (SALT) altogether, in no small part because doing so would hit people that live in high local tax states like California and Texas the hardest. In the reconciled bill, a limited deduction of $10,000 for SALT stayed in. However, it’s capped at $10,000 for individuals and married couples. This penalizes working women, of course, if both spouses work.

So if women and children lose in this tax bill, as we knew they would, who wins? The wealthy and the ultra-wealthy, of course. They’ll see significant tax cuts. They’ll even see as much as $30,000 in tax credits for sending their kids to private schools thanks to changes to the 529 tax savings rules. If you’re rich enough to have to worry about the estate tax, don’t worry much longer: the bill doubles the deduction, so you need to be worth $11 million before the estate tax kicks in. Corporations see their tax rates slashed to the tune of nearly $1 trillion over the next decade. Pass-through companies, such as the Trump Organization, see a big decrease in their taxes as well.

There are a few GOP senators that are either absent or wobbly here, but it likely won’t make much difference. John McCain is leaving Washington for treatment for brain cancer and won’t be able to participate in the final vote on the tax bill. Bob Corker flipped from a no to a yes because a provision benefiting rich real estate moguls like one Bob Corker made it into the bill. However, Corker is now raising new questions about the bill, saying he never saw the provision that benefits him and prompted his vote change, which seems a bit far-fetched. Expect Corker to make a lot of noise about how he can’t vote for the bill and then vote for the bill anyway. Expect the same out of Susan Collins, who is pretending she’s gotten some concessions in the final bill.

All of this means that the bill will likely pass, albeit by a razor-thin margin. And don’t forget that if the vote was 50-50, presuming an unlikely two GOP defectors, Vice President Mike Pence gets to stroll in and break the tie.

Obama once said that elections have consequences, and this last election was one of the most consequential, and the most awful. This bill is most likely going to become law, and it’s going to be incredibly hard on women, children, and everyone who isn’t rich.

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