How to start fixing democracy with the $1.50-a-week tax cut Paul Ryan gave you

• Feb 14, 2018

Jason Sattler, USA Today

House Speaker Paul Ryan decided to let America know recently about a grateful American who was going to get an extra $78 a year from his new tax cut law.

“A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week ... she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year,” his personal accounted tweeted.

You know who is even more thankful than this taxpayer?

“Charles, a Koch brother in Wichita, said he was pleasantly surprised that his pay went up $13,461,538.50 a week ... he said [that] will more than cover the cost of buying several more Paul Ryans.

Of course, $13,461,538.50 is on the high end of Charles’ estimated tax cut, which Americans for Tax Fairness projects will fall between $1 billion and $1.4 billion a year. He and his brother David could be getting as little as $9,615,384.62 a week apiece. Or 6,410,256 times what that secretary in Lancaster can expect.

Forget a Costco card. They could each pay for construction of a new Costco building every week or so.

Ryan’s focus on the crumbs of his tax cuts, while ignoring the bread factories billionaires have been gifted, was so absurd that he soon deleted the tweet. But given the way elections are currently financed in America, the massive unfairness of GOP’s tax cuts exposed by this telling example makes perfect sense.

Actually, it’s the only way these tax cuts make any sense.

Ryan knows exactly who finances GOP majorities and his donors let him know that if there weren’t massive tax cuts for the rich and their corporations, there would be hell to pay. 

Now it’s time for pay-to-play.

Ryan received $500,000 from the brothers Koch in his “Team Ryan” campaign account 13 days after the House passed the tax cut bill. And that’s just the beginning. The Koch network is vowing to spend $400 million to keep the GOP’s majorities — and they’re just one shadowy group of donors with lots of extra cash.

Evidence suggests these donors know how to moor GOP majorities in daunting electoral landscapes. A new study from political scientists Thomas Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen suggests a tidal wave of dark money in the last weeks of the election saved the GOP Senate and pushed Donald Trump over the finish line in 2016.

This coming tsunami of GOP spending has national Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson sounding all the alarm bells. He notes that one Koch is “the equivalent of nearly 15 million Bernie-Sanders-style $27 contributions.” 

While the Democratic National Committee hovers near insolvency, as it has for years, candidates with Ds next to their names are breaking fundraising records. Democrats running for the Virginia House took in 153,422 donations of $100 or less compared to 7,332 for Republicans. 

So small donors are stepping up, but the question is whether there are enough of them —or if enough even exist —to combat billionaires determined to buy elections. The pummeling of vulnerable Democrats has already begun. And the Koch brothers' political network scheduled attack ads to begin Thursday against Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill..

It should not be this hard for a large activated mass of citizens to keep up with a small, dedicated group of feudal lords. But it will be for as long as politicians have every incentive to serve the whims of the richest voters, who can decide their fate by the number of zeros they write on a check.

Fixing this doesn’t have to start with reversing Supreme Court decisions like Citizens UnitedRep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., has proposed The Government By The People Act , which gives taxpayers a $25 tax credit for campaign donations and then turns a small donation into a meaty one with a 6-to-1 federal match. 

This would not only transform the job of members of Congress, forcing them to meet with and answer to as many constituents as possible. It would transform the role of citizens by magnifying their influence. A $78 tax break could become a nearly $500 donation. That would mean a lot to a fledgling campaign.

Along with automatic voter registration and mail-in balloting, this is a reform every Democrat should immediately consider to shift our politics out of billionaires’ pockets. Solving this crisis of democracy has to begin somewhere. It’s not what Paul Ryan had in mind, but it's one way $1.50 a week could really add up.


You can read the full story by Jason Sattler here.

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