The Great Tax Break Heist

In Economy, Taxes On

Tax scams are the tribute policy vice pays to policy virtue.

A few days ago The Times reported on widespread abuse of a provision in the 2017 Trump tax cut that was supposed to help struggling urban workers. The provision created a tax break for investment in so-called “opportunity zones,” which would supposedly help create jobs in low-income areas. In reality the tax break has been used to support high-end hotels and apartment buildings, warehouses that employ hardly any people and so on. And it has made a handful of wealthy, well-connected investors — including the family of Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law — even wealthier.

It’s quite a story. But it should be seen in a broader context, as a symptom of the Republican Party’s unwillingness to perform the basic functions of government.

First of all, the opportunity-zone debacle isn’t the only example of abuse enabled by the Trump tax cut, which is full of destructive loopholes. That is, after all, what’s bound to happen when you ram a multitrillion-dollar bill through Congress without a single hearing, presumably out of fear that it would have been rejected if anyone had had time to figure out what was in it. The bill’s drafting was so rushed that many provisions were actually written in by hand at the last minute.

Among other things, the bum’s rush meant that much of the bill was drafted by lobbyists on behalf of their clients. Given that, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a provision sold as a policy to help the poor has actually ended up being a giveaway to hedge funds and real estate developers.

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The Great Tax Break Heist

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