AT&T reached out and touched someone — more than 200,000 someones.
“Once tax reform is signed into law, AT&T plans to invest an additional $1 billion in the United States in 2018 and pay a special $1,000 bonus to more than 200,000 AT&T US employees — all union-represented, non-management and front-line managers,” company CEO Randall Stephenson announced. “If the president signs the bill before Christmas, employees will receive the bonus over the holidays.”
Wells Fargo followed suit by announcing a boost in its minimum wage to $15 an hour. Fifth Third Bancorp, the fifteenth largest bank in the United States, raised its minimum wage to the same level and announced bonuses for 13,500 employees.
Corporate Grinches donning Santa suits suggest that even if public opinion does not support the Trump tax cuts now, Americans may offer a “thank you” card next November and beyond.
And make no mistake, tax cuts, still the closest thing to a unifying issue for Republicans, no longer enjoy widespread support among the American people.
Just 24 percent of Americans judged the plan a good idea in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll; 41 percent called it a bad idea. The margins in surveys by Gallup and Quinnipiac appear even wider than the one revealed by this latest poll. Compare this downright hostile response to tax cuts with an AP/NBC News poll from February of 1981, when 71 percent of Americans favored Ronald Reagan’s rate reductions and just 15 percent opposed them.
Taxpayers still despise taxes as much as ever. But taxpayers appear if not an endangered species then at least a diminished one. With the 21st century seeing a smaller percentage of citizens paying income taxes than at any point in recent memory — 45 percent of households pay no federal income taxes — rate reductions no longer lead to additions for the party that champions them. In fact, the mathematics now favors the opposing position.
Democrats want fewer people paying higher taxes. Republicans want more people paying lower taxes. The former position, now that the taker-maker differential approaches parity, works as an asset. The latter position, once kryptonite to Democrats, remarkably costs Republicans support.
The world truly turned upside down.
Though tax cuts no longer move the masses now that so many of the masses receive instead of send a check to the IRS every April, the results of tax cuts may still work in the favor of Republicans. In the 1920s, 1960s, and 1980s, massive tax cuts unleashed massive growth and job creation. Presumably the laws of economics did not get repealed when the nostrums that governed American politics got turned on their heads.
And even if the economy does not boom, a noticeable increase in disposable income by middle-class earners — the very people who decide elections — likely helps the president and his party. The tangible results from AT&T, Wells Fargo, and Fifth Third Bancorp — perhaps choreographed by the White House — gives Trump a powerful talking point to hang his hat upon.
The man who beat the polls to become president perhaps understands the mercurial nature of public opinion, and how results trump rhetoric in this specific instance, better than anyone.
“The Tax Cuts are so large and so meaningful, and yet the Fake News is working overtime to follow the lead of their friends, the defeated Dems, and only demean,” Trump explained in the wake of Congress passing the bill. “This is truly a case where the results will speak for themselves, starting very soon. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!”
If the longtime casino proprietor’s bet goes as he predicts, then he keeps his current job. If he handicaps the outcome wrong, a phrase from another former gig comes to mind: You’re fired!
Hunt Lawrence is a New York-based investor. Daniel Flynn is the author of five books.