The $1.5 trillion tax overhaul that President Trump signed into law late last year has already given the American economy a jolt, at least temporarily. It has fattened the paychecks of most American workers, padded the profits of large corporations and sped economic growth.
The Treasury Department released figures on Monday showing the federal budget deficit widened by 17 percent in the 2018 fiscal year, to $779 billion. That’s an unusual jump for a year in which unemployment hit a five-decade low and the economy experienced a significant economic expansion. But the increase demonstrates that the tax cuts President Trump signed into law late last year have reduced federal revenues considerably, even against the backdrop of a booming economy.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has been one of the biggest proponents of President Trump’s crackdown on China, welcoming tariffs on Chinese imports while conceding that they will raise costs for American businesses and consumers. “There is no way for us to address China without absorbing some pain here,” Mr. Graham said in August.
Two of America’s biggest steel manufacturers — both with deep ties to administration officials — have successfully objected to hundreds of requests by American companies that buy foreign steel to exempt themselves from President Trump’s stiff metal tariffs. They have argued that the imported products are readily available from American steel manufacturers.
The amount of corporate taxes collected by the federal government has plunged to historically low levels in the first six months of the year, pushing up the federal budget deficit much faster than economists had predicted. The reason is President Trump’s tax cuts. The law introduced a standard corporate rate of 21 percent, down from a high of 35 percent, and allowed companies to immediately deduct many new investments.
The legislative blitz that rocketed the $1.5 trillion tax cut through Congress in less than two months created a host of errors and ambiguities in the law that businesses big and small are just now discovering and scrambling to address. Companies and trade groups are pushing the Treasury Department and Congress to fix the law’s consequences, some intended and some not, including provisions that disadvantage certain farmers, hurt restaurateurs and retailers and could balloon the tax bills of large multinational corporations.
In 2015, Republicans changed the budget rules in Congress so that official scorekeepers would be required to analyze the potential economic impact of major legislation when determining how it would affect federal revenues. But on Thursday, hours before they were set to vote on the largest tax cut Congress has considered in years, Senate Republicans opened an assault on that scorekeeper, the Joint Committee on Taxation, and its analysis, which showed the Senate plan would not, as lawmakers contended, pay for itself but would add $1 trillion to the federal budget deficit.
Speaking on the Senate floor ahead of the vote, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, called the Republican approach “a process and a product that no one can be proud of and everyone should be ashamed of.” He went on to warn that changes made to the bill “under the cover of darkness” would “stuff even more money into the pockets of the wealthy and the biggest corporations while raising taxes on millions in the middle class.”
“Contrary to their assertions, the Republicans are picking winners and losers,” Jerry Howard, chief executive of the National Association of Homebuilders, said in an interview. “They are picking rich Americans and corporations over small businesses and the middle class.”