Americans think Washington will hurt their personal finances
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Jessica Glenn is supposed to love the GOP tax bill that’s rumbling to the White House for President Trump’s signature.
Glenn, 43, is a middle-class small business owner and a parent – the exact profile Republicans have sought to highlight as someone who’d benefit from the bill. And yet she says it’ll do little to help her earn more money or add to payroll.
“I won’t hire more people as a result of this bill, that’s a complete fallacy,” says Glenn, who runs MindBuck Media Book Publicity in Portland, Oregon. “I don’t see this as helping the middle class at all.”
Like Glenn, many Americans don’t feel their elected officials are doing much to help their personal finances, according to a Bankrate.com survey. A plurality, 40 percent, expect Washington to inflict harm on their bottom line, a 14-point increase from last year, while less than a quarter believe they’ll receive some assistance. One in three respondents don’t expect an impact one way or the other, a nine-point decline.
What’s going on?
Partisanship. Nearly three in five Republicans expect their finances to improve, while more than two-thirds of Democrats expect things to worsen. Independents, meanwhile, are evenly split between their lives staying the same and worsening.
“Americans are broadly skeptical about their elected leadership in Washington and the potential impacts on their personal finances,” says Mark Hamrick, Bankrate.com’s senior economic analyst. “The key issue separating Democrats and Republicans involves taxes, with one side fearful of paying more and the other hoping to pay less.”
Tax cuts: corporations versus people
Among those who expect the worst, 46 percent believe they’ll pay more in taxes, while 15 percent say they’ll endure higher expenses. The more sanguine, meanwhile, expect to pay less to Uncle Sam.
Jason Bauman is in the pay-more camp. Bauman, 32, lives north of Philadelphia and plans to move to New Jersey to be closer to work. While he thinks he may receive a cut now, he expects his personal taxes to increase once the bill’s changes on the individual side expire at the end of 2025.
He’s especially concerned about plans to curb the mortgage interest deduction and cap state and local state deductions at $10,000, two provisions that will make it more expensive to buy a house in the Garden State.
Congressional Republicans have said they believe legislators will extend the cuts before they expire. But Bauman is dubious.
“There’s no reason to trust that they’d do that,” he says. “If that’s really how they felt they could have made people’s tax cuts permanent, and the company tax cuts temporary.”
Tax bill winners and losers
Glenn and Bauman are hardly alone. A recent survey of the bill’s popularity found that only one-third of Americans support the tax cuts, while 52 percent are opposed.
That may be a result of much of the gains going to the very wealthy.
Analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that middle-income households would see a $930 cut in 2018, compared to $7,640 in relief for the nation’s highest earners.
In a decade, after much of the individual tax cuts expire, middle-class Americans would see a $20 hike, while the wealthiest earners would enjoy $1,260 in relief. In fact, more than half of Americans would face higher taxes as a result of the legislation.
What you should do
Any tax cuts you see in 2018 should be used to shore up your finances. Your tax bill will slowly increase over the years, all else being equal, and you want to lock in the gains to give yourself some cover.
“Where individuals or families find some additional dollars in take-home pay, they should try to pay down debt and add to savings,” says Hamrick. “Because the tax bill adds to the nation’s debt in coming years, the prospect of even higher interest rates looms larger.”
Don’t think of tax cuts as your new normal, but rather a temporary handout. That way you won’t be accustomed to them if and when they evaporate.
The idea of adding to your emergency fund and paying off your loans may sound less than thrilling this holiday season. But it’s the perfect antidote to craziness in our nation’s capital.