When a unified front of blue ribbon economists says your bill is going to drown the country in $1 trillion of debt, what can you do? The Republicans eventually found support in a list of paid lobbyists, questionable retirees and more than a few ghosts.
When the Joint Commission on Taxation report showed the Republican Tax Cut bill would add at least $1 trillion to the national debt and would barely stimulate any GDP growth, things did not look good for its passage.
Undaunted, the Republicans somehow magically found 137 economists who signed a letter to sing the bill’s praises, and the bill eventually squeaked through passage in the early hours of December 2.
The letter was put together by the RATE Coalition, a corporate advocacy group who has everything to gain by the bill’s passage, and who is actively lobbying to get the bill’s proposed huge corporate tax cut made into law.
With this kind of support for their proposed legislation, Republican Senators could not more gleeful. Even President Donald Trump tweeted a video showing the list of those 137 economists.
The only problem with this is that many of the economist signatories appear to have been either paid off for backing the bill, are not and never were economists, and in a number of cases may not even exist.
That’s the finding of an analysis by The Intercept, published online on December 2.
In their analysis of those 137 signatories’ credentials, The Intercept found that:
Gil Sylvia, listed there as from the University of Georgia, has no record of being with the University on its website, and the University itself says he is not employed there.
Seth Beid, another supposed signatory, does exist. But as opposed to being an economist with the ability to analyze the bill’s financial implications, Beid is simply an office assistant with the New York State Tax Department. He also does not remember signing off on the letter.
John P. Eleazarian, another signatory to the letter, is listed as an economist with the American Economic Association. He has no record as an economist. His only record that perhaps might matter is that he used to be an attorney but lost his law license permanently in California, after being convicted and sentenced to a prison term for forging a judicial signature and falsifying other documents. He currently is listed as a paralegal in a law firm.
13 other economists the RATE Coalition letter names as co-signers include people identified in the letter as economists with emeritus status. Of those, at least five of those named there are not only not practicing economists, but are instead already retired.
Other indications of stretching the truth as to the independence of the ‘economists’ analyses include:
At least two in-houses economists with financial services organizations, including one from Bank of America. They would tend to be strong supporters of the bill for their organizations’ own purposes.
James C. Milller III, an official with the Koch brothers-led advocacy organization Americans for Prosperity, who has been fighting for a tax cut package like this.
Douglas Holtz-Eakin, is head of the American Action Forum. It, like Americans for Prosperity, is all for big tax cuts for corporations as part of their lobbying charters.
So, instead of being a list of strong independent blue-ribbon economists who have actively analyzed the complex implications of the new bill, the RATE Coalition signatories appear to be at best people paid to push the Republican agenda, and at worst either retired, with insufficient skills to properly do the analysis, or just plain made up.
Which begs the ultimate question for this entire charade: who was it, who was voted into office with the charter to serve the American people as members of Congress, who picked this method of attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of American citizens by creating this kind of propaganda?
Those peoples’ names may not yet be known. One thing is certain, though, is that if it means the Corporations and the Wealthy are going to get the single largest financial holiday gift ever from Congress when the bill finally is signed into law, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and President Donald Trump are going to be cheering them on, louder than ever.