The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The tax cuts are working (for banks)!

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin answers questions during a White House briefing in Washington in February. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

For a while, the Republican Party was pretty confident that it had figured out its message for the 2018 midterms. It passed massive tax cuts in December, you see, and that would fill America’s wallets to the point that voters could barely resist pulling the lever for the party come November.

It didn’t work out that way in the special election in Pennsylvania last month, where a Democrat won a district that President Trump had carried by 20 points — and where Republicans eventually gave up on trying to use the tax cuts to woo voters.

By the end of March, CNBC had conducted a poll to gauge the extent to which most Americans had noticed that they had more money in their paychecks thanks to scaled-back payroll taxes. Most Americans said they hadn’t.

One group in which a majority claimed to have noticed more money: Republicans, half of whom said they’d seen an increase.

If you’re curious what role partisanship played here — Were Republicans trying to goose their party’s success? Were Democrats trying to tamp down on the good news? — you can turn to independents. They were even less likely than Democrats to say they saw more take-home pay.

Since then, the conversation about tax cuts has died down. Fox News continues to raise the subject more than its competitors, mentioning the cuts 381 times in the past month, compared with 119 times by CNN and 157 by MSNBC.

But public interest has waned. Even as Tax Day loomed, Americans weren’t rushing to Google to learn how the tax cuts might affect them.

On Friday, though, some good news. One group of Americans most certainly had noticed the positive effects of the tax cuts, as reported by the Associated Press.

“The nation’s six big Wall Street banks posted record, or near record, profits in the first quarter,” the AP’s Ken Sweet reported. “While higher interest rates allowed banks to earn more from lending in the first quarter, the main boost to banks came from the billions of dollars they saved in taxes under the tax law Trump signed in December. Combined, the six banks saved at least $3.59 billion last quarter, according to an Associated Press estimate, using the bank’s tax rates going back to 2015.”

$3.6 billion. That’s $11 for every American, if it were to be given to individual Americans, which it will not. Or, put another way, it’s just shy of $40 million a day for those six banks. $27,700 a minute. About $462 a second.

Let’s make it tangible. Here’s how much money those banks saved since you opened this article, assuming they’re saving money in this quarter at the same rate that they did last quarter.

To be fair, the $28 each household would get if you divvied up the $3.6 billion among all American households pales next to the $1,600 each American household is expected to save on average this year. Of course those savings aren’t evenly distributed; the Tax Policy Center notes that middle-income households are expected to save only $900.

Those figures, though, are divvied up between 126 million households, not six banks. Those banks, it’s very safe to assume, would gladly vote for the Republicans in the midterm elections. As of writing, though, banks can’t vote.