New report questions economic impact of Trump tax cut

A fresh study by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service is raising new questions about the economic impact of President Donald Trump's signature tax cut plan, making the case that the cut in corporate and individual income taxes has produced only a minimal boost in economic growth in the U.S.

"On the whole, the growth effects tend to show a relatively small (if any) first-year effect on the economy," write Jane Gravelle and Donald Marples of the Congressional Research Service, as they said economic data 'rule out very large effects particularly in the short run.'

"Although investment grew significantly, the growth patterns for different types of assets do not appear to be consistent with the direction and size of the supply-side incentive effects one would expect from the tax changes," the CRS report stated.

Democrats said the report simply showed the tax cuts help more wealthy Americans, but do not spur major amounts of economic growth for workers. 

"The tax cuts were an actual ripoff," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), as Democrats have long argued that big corporate tax cuts would line the pockets of people in charge, but do little for the working class.

"As predicted, the GOP giveaway to the top 1% didn't help us grow, didn't pay for itself, and didn't help Americans bring home a bigger paycheck," said Rep. Val Demings (D-FL).

"Bottom line - it was in fact a scam that made the rich richer, didn’t benefit the middle class, and certainly did nothing to raise wages," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

While President Trump and White House officials have touted gains among middle class workers, the CRS report found the opposite, saying "ordinary workers had very little growth in wage rates."

Needless to say, President Trump sees the evidence much differently, calling the tax cuts 'rocket fuel' for the U.S. economy.

"You know, you keep hearing about 'for the wealthy.' It's not the wealthy. It's for, frankly, if you look at it, blue-collar workers, lower-income people are rising the fastest," President Trump said in an April speech.

Since the tax cut kicked in at the start of 2018, the nation's Gross Domestic Product has bumped up, though in a bit of a roller coaster type of result.

GDP growth for all of 2018 was 2.9 percent, up from 2.2 percent in 2017, and 1.6 percent in 2016. As the report noted, that was along the lines of an increase that economists had been predicting.

"In 2018, gross domestic product (GDP) grew at 2.9%, about the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO’s) projected rate published in 2017 before the tax cut," the report noted.

The GDP for the final quarter of 2018 was just 2.2 percent; the latest estimate for the first quarter of 2019 was 3.2 percent. Final figures will be released on Thursday by the Trump Administration.

As for the tax cuts paying for themselves - a decades-old political argument in Washington on tax cuts and economic growth, the CRS report found little to show for that GOP claim.

"The data appear to indicate that not enough growth occurred in the first year to cause the tax cut to pay for itself," the authors stated, indicating that the latest projections are the tax law will generate "5 percent or less of the growth needed to fully offset the revenue loss" from the tax law.

So far in Fiscal Year 2019, revenues are up $35 billion from the previous year - but just over half of that increase is not due to higher income tax payments - rather, it has come from increased tariffs levied by the Trump Administration, and paid by U.S. companies on imported goods.

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