By Cameron Gonzales
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was Republican tax legislation passed in 2017. The effects are constantly being analyzed due to the fact that the legislation was not allowed by party leadership to be reviewed or amended in committees. Proponents promised a simplified tax code, a boost to the economy and better conditions, wages, and lower taxation for the working class. Most Americans believe the economy is doing well, but does opinion reflect facts?
Many citizens point to the unemployment rate or the stock market as evidence of a good economy. There are huge problems with using either to measure economic power. Lets start with the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate may show that people are employed, but doesn’t reflect the conditions or wages of that job. In a similar vein, added jobs do not simply reflect new people in the workforce, but also the addition of jobs by someone that already has one. Many Americans have to work multiple jobs just to make it by, which doesn’t reflect a healthy economy. Another measure of economic success is the stock market, of which the working class owns very little stock in. Only half of the population, with the majority being already rich, benefit from the stock market. Most Americans are unaware of the happenings of the stock market and many do not care. Economists believe that these two measurements are deeply flawed and represent very specific circumstances and they should not be used as measures of economic success.
What should economic success be defined by? For the majority of us our economic well being has nothing to do with the stock market or unemployment figures. It’s more about things we talk about around the kitchen table. The first is wages, which have stayed stagnant for decades when adjusted for inflation. We could also look at net worth and how much it is growing, or maybe we look at how much debt we have. For to many people multiple jobs is an economic reality to just have the basics. Health care, housing, and cost of living present huge barriers to economic well being. As of now, one in six children live in a house that doesn’t have enough food, forcing entire families and their children to go hungry. This isn’t for lack of want or lack of effort. Many of these families work hard for multiple low wage jobs, unable to quit their job and face the prospect of having to wait too long to get another one. As the global superpower, we cannot say our economy and people are doing well if 40 million people live in poverty in our own land.
We have realized time and time again that tax cuts neither pay for themselves nor help the average American. The most recent legislation gave huge permanent tax cuts to corporations, large tax cuts for the wealthiest among us, and much smaller temporary tax cuts for the middle and working class. You would think the corporations received the tax cuts to help raise wages, give out bonuses, hire more Americans, and invest in their equipment, right? Instead, out of the 5.9 million employers in the U.S., only 413 gave their workers one time bonuses or wage increases. The total money given out in wage increases and bonuses was only 1/11th of what corporations got back in tax cuts. Not only did these corporations not invest their newfound money back to the American people and their own workers, they spent their money on stock buybacks. Stock buybacks are a practice that corporations do in order to raise their stock value and benefit their own shareholders. These corporations spent 154 times the amount they spent on bonuses/wage increases on stock buybacks, pumping $1 trillion more into the stock market and their own shareholders while only spending $7.1 billion on American workers.
To often, Americans and their best interests get pushed to the side in order to benefit large corporations and their stockholders. We rarely receive support, engraining in us the idea that we are not working hard enough instead of the idea that we are not being justly compensated. Corporations will always work to increase profit, it is up to us if we choose to correct for that and put the lives and wages of the majority of Americans first. We should not sit by as corporations get richer and richer, then thank them when we get the crumbs. Our middle class is being decimated, and it is not for a lack of hard work. Americans should demand that we benefit from being a part of and contributing to one of the wealthiest and vibrant countries on Earth.