Low Taxes, High Emotions: Why You, a State High Student, Should Care About the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Lena Clark, Staff Writer

At 2 AM on Saturday, December 3rd, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed the Senate by a vote of 51-49. All tax bills are required to originate in the House of Representatives, and this one passed the House on November 16th by a vote of 223-207. However, the version of the bill that passed in the Senate is not the same as the one that passed in the House; before it passed in the Senate, it underwent many drastic and hasty changes by senators working to make the bill satisfactory to their constituents. Now that the Senate has approved its version, the bill will go to what is called reconciliation, a process in which a joint committee of senators and congressmen sit down and work out the differences between the two bills. Once they have agreed upon a final version that is acceptable to both parties, the reconciled bill will return to the House and the Senate for a final vote. If it passes through both houses, it will be sent to President Trump for his signature or veto.


There is a lot to know about the 475-page bill, so here are some basics.

  1. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. This change is permanent, meaning that neither house has written in an expiration date for this tax cut.
  2. The bill cuts the tax rate for small businesses from 39.6 percent to 20 percent. This change is also permanent.
  3. The bill also cuts individual and family income taxes. Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center found that in 2018, households in the lowest 20 percent of the income spectrum would see an average tax cut worth $6. The next 20 percent would see a cut of $310, and the middle 20 percent would get an average of $830 in savings. However, these tax cuts expire in 2026.
  4. The House’s version of the bill is expected to drive up the deficit by $1.08 trillion over the next 10 years, and the Senate’s version about $500 billion. These deficit-increases are expected to create higher taxes for future Americans and do long-term damage to the American economy.


So, with all this in mind, why should you, as a State High student, care about this bill?


First of all, the bill was voted on very hastily on Friday night: senators were only given an hour to read the 475-page bill, much of which had hand-written changes hurriedly scribbled in the margins. Late Friday evening, California senator Dianne Feinstein tweeted, “UPDATE: Republicans rejected our motion to adjourn until Monday so senators could read the bill they just introduced. RT If you think senators should have time to read a bill that affects every single American.” Despite her protests, the bill was voted on that night. This was deeply upsetting to many people, including Keally Haushalter, a State High senior. Haushalter said, “I’m mad about how they went about it. Some senators didn’t even get the chance to read the bill before they had to vote on it.” Jackie Feffer, a senior, chimed in, “This is what they’re paid to do. They’re paid to read the legislation before they pass it. They’re cheating the system.”


Second, you might want to pay attention to this bill if you think grad school is anywhere in your future. In exchange for free tuition, many graduate students teach classes or do research for their professors, and receive a small stipend (usually between $10,000 and $20,000 per year). Under the Senate’s proposed plan, grad students will be taxed not only on their income, but on the free tuition they receive. So a student making a $15,000 stipend and attending a school with $40,000 tuition will be taxed as if he or she is making $55,000 per year. This may not seem significant, but many grad students have calculated that their taxes will, at the very least, double, which will eat into their already limited budgets. Patrick Jones O’Brien, a senior, says, “I am strongly opposed to the grad school plan. It’s blind, daylight robbery. The rich are waging class warfare, and we’ve got to fight that.”


To let your senators and congressman know how you feel about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, call the following numbers:


Senator Bob Casey, Jr.: (202) 224-6324

Senator Pat Toomey: (202) 224-4254

Representative Glenn Thompson: (202) 225-5121