For the first five years, the single most expensive item in the House version of the Democrats’ Build Back Better, or “human infrastructure,” bill is a gigantic tax cut for millionaires and billionaires. This provision would lift the cap from $10,000 to $80,000 on income tax deductions for state and local taxes (commonly referred to among budget nerds as “SALT”).
Given how inconvenient this is for a party that for years has been campaigning against millionaires and billionaires, some Democrats prefer the claim that it’s merely the second-most-costly provision. They do this by merging the childcare and pre-K programs into a single item.
But no matter how you slice it, giving a huge tax cut to the super-rich is a weird thing to do when you’ve been claiming that the solution to our problems is simply getting the rich to “pay their fair share.” It’s even weirder when you consider that this tax break would be even bigger and more regressive than former President Trump’s tax “giveaway” that was so reviled by progressives—which the House version would keep. Benefits from the Democrats’ regressive giveaway would largely go to taxpayers in the top 20 percent of the income scale and would overwhelmingly benefit the top 0.1 percent of earners, specifically in high-tax states like New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California.
Obviously, this is all justly ripe for accusations of hypocrisy. But what explains the hypocrisy? I can see three mutually reinforcing reasons.