Huge tax giveaway hidden in the pandemic relief program

Rich landlords like grifters Trump and Kushner make out like, well, bandits

Published April 19, 2020 11:59AM (EDT)

Mitch McConnell; Steve Mnuchin; Donald Trump (Getty/Salon)
Mitch McConnell; Steve Mnuchin; Donald Trump (Getty/Salon)

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A gold-plated tax giveaway infected the coronavirus relief bill that Donald Trump signed into law on March 27, Congressional Democrats complained loudly last month.

The Democrats got it wrong. The plating turns out to be pure platinum.

Almost 82% of the tax savings will go to the Trump-Kushner family and 43,000 of their fellow millionaire landlords. This rich and officially favored slice of American society consists of fewer than one in 3,550 taxpayers.

These millionaires will be excused from paying $70.3 billion in taxes out of the $86 billion the law forgives.

The savings go to real estate investors like the extended Trump-Kushner family. The provision removes limits on how much in tax benefits they can enjoy each year.

The figures were issued Tuesday by Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. Two Democrats, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), requested the analysis of who benefits based on income known as a distribution table.

Using the official data, I calculate that on average each benefitting millionaire will be excused from paying $1.6 million of income taxes.

Millionaires "need" relief

Think about how many years it takes you to earn enough to owe $1.6 million in taxes. Depending on your tax situation, you'd need an annual income of $4.3 million to $8 million. To Trump & Co., that is the level of income in need of the most pandemic relief.

Trump can now write off the full remaining value of his buildings like the Trump Tower in Chicago and his golf course clubhouses. That would reduce his income to zero for tax purposes. Ditto for the Kushners, who likely will not even have to pay income taxes on their government salaries as presidential aides.

A dollar of income tax not paid is the same as a relief check for the same amount.

Now, look at the parsimonious relief for most Americans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act: The most you will get is $1,200 plus $500 per child under age 17.

Trump and the radical Republicans made sure to minimize your benefits — even as at least 17 million Americans jobs disappeared.

Stingy Republicans

Democrats wanted broader and larger aid, but Trump and the radical Republicans were so stingy that they denied any help to students 17 and older, even if they are not claimed as dependents on their parents' tax returns.

Those most in need of the relief checks may never see the money. Banks can intercept the cash of customers who are past due on their credit card, loan or mortgage payments, thanks to a secret deal the Trump administration made with bankers that journalist David Dayen exposed.

If you make more than $75,000 your relief check starts shrinking. Once your income reaches $99,000 you get nothing. For married couples, double those income numbers.

What a revealing policy:

  • Minimal benefits for 80% of Americans
  • No benefits for those making $99,000 to $1 million
  • Lavish benefits for capitalists making more than $1 million.

That brings into clear focus the Marie "let them eat cake" Antoinette policies of Donald Trump and the radical Republicans. Their policies are giving a fortune to rich landlords, crumbs for most Americans and nothing for the one in five households making between $100,000 and $1 million from work.

Miserly Mnuchin

Then there's the cavalier attitude of  Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary whose wife played the last French queen in a movie and who got super-rich from evicting people harmed in the 2008 mortgage scandals that collapsed the economy.

Mnuchin says Americans don't need more than $1,200 to get buy for a few months. Here is Mnuchin's exchange on CBS Face The Nation with host Margaret Brennan two days after Trump signed the coronavirus relief bill:

Mnuchin: It's really bridge liquidity for people as they go through these difficult times.

Brennan: Bridge liquidity for about eight weeks?

Mnuchin: Well, I-, I think the entire package provides economic relief overall for about 10 weeks.

You can read the entire interview, which more fully reveals Mnuchin's obliviousness. But then what should we expect from a former Goldman Sachs, former hedge fund manager and pal of felon financier Michael Milken?

Mnuchin is a swamp dweller who has used his position as Treasury secretary to  order up an Air Force jet so he and his actress wife could get a prime view of a solar eclipse,  sticking you, fellow taxpayer, with the bill. He claimed he really needed the jet to inspect the gold at Fort Knox, wink wink.

Of course, that's small beer compared to the $133 million taxpayers have spent on Trump golf trips so far—another estimate puts the bill as high as $340 million. Don't forget that candidate Trump vowed to never play golf and seldom leave the White House so he could fulfill all his campaign promises.

$900 a week

While people like Mnuchin and Trump live large on the taxpayers' hard-earned bucks and then arrange fortunes in personal tax benefits, the median wage in America is only $933 a week. That's gross pay, by the way, not take-home pay.

One in four workers makes less than $15,000 annually. And only one in four makes more than $60,000.

In many areas of the country, an income of $60,000 is, for a family of four, below the new poverty measure that accounts for people living paycheck to paycheck and have little or little or no savings.

Just four days after Trump signed the CARES Act, with its bonanza for real estate owners like himself, MSNBC's Katy Tur aired video of long lines of cars lined up on roads approaching food banks, lines that have grown and grown since then.

But worry not. Trump, through his Treasury secretary, has decided you're getting plenty to live on for 10 weeks, it's just nowhere near enough for him and his kin.

By David Cay Johnston

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Coronavirus Coronavirus Pandemic Coronavirus Relief Bill Dcreport Tax Relief U.s. Economy