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The GOP tax plan framework, released last month, almost undoubtedly benefits the wealthy — and that's largely because of the corporate tax provisions. "It's not that this tax plan is a huge direct tax cut to rich individuals, it's that it's a huge tax cut to businesses, and those businesses are owned by rich individuals," said Marc Goldwein of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Yes, but: Conservative economists emphasize that while the wealthy may directly benefit the most from corporate tax cuts, workers will ultimately benefit too from higher wages and more jobs. That's the argument that will really drive the debate when Congress considers the tax plan.

Expand chart
Data: Tax Policy Center; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

What you need to know about the GOP plan: It makes changes to all aspects of the tax code. Here are a few major provisions:

  • Condenses the individual tax code into three brackets: 12, 25 and 35 percent. (It hasn't yet defined which incomes qualify for what bracket.) It leaves the potential for a fourth rate on the highest earners.
  • Reduces the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.
  • Allows immediate writing off of capital investments for five years.
  • Establishes a "pass-through" business rate of 25 percent. Currently, pass-through business income is taxed at filers' individual rate.

Why the wealthy benefit: Economists generally don't dispute that in an immediate sense, the GOP tax plan disproportionately benefits the wealthy.

  • Reducing the pass-through rate is a pretty straightforward benefit to the wealthy. Under the new tax structure, only higher-income people being taxed at the 35 percent rate will benefit from a lower (25 percent) pass-through rate.
  • Economists disagree about who pays what amount of corporate taxes. But it's generally accepted that shareholders and capital owners pay more of the corporate tax than workers, so therefore would benefit more from a tax reduction than workers would.
  • On the other hand, of course the wealthy benefit from tax cuts— they pay much more in taxes than lower income people, who often don't pay any taxes. "You cannot do individual income tax policy without talking about the affluent because they're the ones who pay tax," said Doug Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum. Wealthier people also own businesses.

How workers could benefit: This is where economists start to significantly disagree.

  • A Council of Economic Advisers report released yesterday found that reducing the corporate tax rate to 20 percent would increase average household income by $4,000 a year. (Liberal economists disagreed.)
  • When corporate rates are lowered, this results in more jobs, higher wages and more benefits, former Senate Finance aide Chris Condeluci told me. "As more people are spending money in the economy, it's almost like a rising-tides-raises-all-boats," he said.
  • However, different income brackets may see results at different times. "The corporate cuts today benefit today's shareholders, and the effects for workers will take a very long time to show up," said Adam Looney of the Brookings Institution.
  • Some say if the plan increases the federal debt, this cancels out benefits to the middle class. "Higher debt depresses wage growth," Goldwein said.
  • Economists generally agree that the provision of the plan allowing faster write-offs for capital investments will have a large positive impact on workers.

The politics: It's going to be hard for Republicans to escape from being accused of cutting taxes for the wealthy, because they are. But conservatives strongly believe this is how to best help the middle class, even if they won't win the short-term politics of the issue.

  • Acknowledging this, Holtz-Eakin said, "All you have to do is get 51 votes in the Senate, and then the economy will win the political argument."

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.