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Sens. Brown and Portman Give Their Take on the GOP Tax Plan's Long-Term Effects

photo of Sen. Rob Portman and Sen. Sherrod Brown

The U.S. House and Senate have passed the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades, with the bill splitting down party lines. Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown contends that this primarily benefits the rich and will ballon the deficit, while his Republican counterpart Rob Portman argues that this can help pay down the deficit in the long run.

“It’s just morally outrageous, the whole thing.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown slams Republican lawmakers after Congress passed the controversial tax bill.

He says the cut to the corporate tax and cap on deductions hurt the middle class while catering to the wealthy. Brown consistently touted a stat that 83 percent of the benefits from the tax bill go to the richest 1 percent.

“That’s just immoral, I mean if you say you’re gonna cut taxes for the middle class then cut taxes for the middle class don’t do this bank shot where you cut taxes for the wealthiest 1 percent,” Brown said.

Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman's response: “I don’t think that’s accurate.”

Portman refutes that characterization of the tax plan. He says in the next eight years the middle class will see plenty of tax breaks, more than anyone earning over $1 million.

“And that’s intended. In other words, we intended to shift the burden of taxation in a way that keeps the code very progressive,” he said.

Portman adds that Brown’s stat about 83 percent of the benefits going to the top 1 percent is misleading because it’s referring to 10 years from now in 2027. But that won’t be the case if Congress votes to extend the tax cuts. Portman says Congress took similar action during President Barack Obama’s time in office for cuts originally passed in 2001 and 2003.

Some new alliances
Ryan Alexander is president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a typically conservative leaning taxpayer watchdog group. She says it’s not fair to hang the hopes of the middle class on the possibility of extending the cuts.

“It’s totally possible for that to be extended. But I think that will create some uncertainty as people plan because if they do expire, then taxes for many people in the middle income range will go up even from where they are today,” Alexander said.

Alexander’s group was in favor of cutting the corporate tax but only in a way that would be revenue neutral. Instead, she says this plan increases the deficit.

What about the deficit?
Portman acknowledges the possibility of a bigger deficit, but only if the economy doesn’t grow. However, as he puts it, these tax breaks could result in a higher economic growth rate.

“Then you’ll actually see money coming back to the Treasury and see some deficit reduction, and I’m hopeful that that’s what’s gonna happen here.  I believe it will because these changes are so long overdue, the tax code is so broken that this is actually going to result in deficit reduction,” he said.

Trickle down
Brown calls that trickle-down economics, with a history of failure.

“History says it doesn’t trickle down, it doesn’t result in higher wages, it doesn’t result in job growth, it results in stock buybacks, it results in bigger dividends, it results in bigger executive compensation,” he said.

Portman contends that this bill was always about creating a progressive tax model that still shifts the burden off of the lower and middle class.

“People who are at the low end of the economic ladder are going to be getting some substantial relief compared to what they pay now to the point where about 3 million people or more who have tax liability now will have no tax liability, zero liability after this is done,” Portman said.

A question of process
Brown denounces the whole process Republicans took to get this bill approved, saying it was sped through the committee process without much study or input. He adds that, if they really thought it was going to help the middle class, they would’ve had more transparency.

“But they didn’t because they know this is immensely unpopular, that the public understands that when Republicans do a tax cut bill it always helps the rich and it always shrinks the middle class,” Brown said.

The U.S. House and Senate unveiled their tax bills at the beginning of November, but the process to strike an agreement between both chambers through a conference committee began about two weeks ago.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he’s all for tax reform but argues this bill is just a big tax cut that increases the debt without covering the revenue loss.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.