Paul Ryan, speaker of the US House of Representatives and long-time advocate of tax cuts for companies and the wealthy, was so thrilled when the Republican tax bill passed the House that his gavel bounced off the lectern.
“I was very excited,” he told Fox & Friends later. “I have been working on this issue pretty much my adult life.” Ryan, 47, joined the House in 1999, and this may be his last term in office, according to multiple reports. If so, this tax bill, and its aftermath, are likely to be his main political legacy.
Because of a procedural screw-up, the House needs to vote one more time on the bill just after noon today (Dec. 20), and it is expected to pass. President Donald Trump is planning a 3pm US Eastern Standard Time press conference at the White House to celebrate. (It will be several days before the bill is signed into law, however.)
Only about one-quarter of Americans approve of the bill. That’s because it is expected to strip funding from the public schools that 90% of US families use, could reduce incomes for the working class, and is based on a “trickle down” theory of economics that has historically been proven wrong.
Ryan did the morning-TV rounds of this morning to defend the bill, but said little that would burnish its reputation.
“Pundits and the media are saying this and that,” Ryan told CBS. “There’s just tons of confusion out there about what this does or doesn’t do.”
Republicans promise that the bill, which slashes tax rates for companies at a time of record corporate profits, and gives most of its individual benefits to the wealthy, will boost economic growth substantially. Economists generally don’t agree. Goldman Sachs, for example, said the bill could add 0.3% to GDP in 2018 and 2019, and could be “minimal and actually could be slightly negative” in 2020 and beyond.
Nonetheless, Ryan told Good Morning America: “All the scorekeepers say it will grow the economy, it is just a question of degree.”
Will growth equal the over $1 trillion the bill add to the deficit, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie asked Ryan. “Nobody knows the answer to that question, because it is in the future,” he said.
One thing Ryan was clear on in all of his interviews was Congress’s next step—cuts to so-called entitlement programs. Critics fear that could mean trimming spending on health care and other aspects of the US social safety net. “We clearly have to go after spending,” Ryan told Guthrie.