The Associated Press reported this morning that the nation’s six biggest Wall Street banks got a honking great $3.6 billion tax cut from the Republican tax bill, which will raise taxes on Americans earning less than $75,000 by 2027.
The tax plan, as has already been well established, is a big scam. Many activist groups worked tirelessly to try and defeat it; average Americans called their congressional offices, wrote letters, made demands on social media. It was for naught.
What most Americans didn’t have that these six big banks did have is lobbyists. Dozens of lobbyists, and lots of money to pay them, and years of infrastructure and connections in Washington to make their case. They have whole teams of people, all of them well-paid, whose job it is to know how to get the policies they want in Washington, and how to stop those they don’t. They don’t always succeed, but they sure as hell did this time.
Lobbying is very expensive. It costs tens of thousands of dollars per quarter to hire a good lobbying firm. But for these big banks, the return on investment is undeniable.
The six biggest Wall Street banks spent a total of $19 million on lobbying in 2017 and received a $3.6 billion tax cut. That’s 186 times what they spent on lobbying, or 18,600%. If you include campaign donations (to campaigns and PACs) from 2017 to today, which total $7.6 million, it’s a 13,300% return on investment. (All lobbying and campaign contribution data from OpenSecrets.)
Some caveats to this analysis: The AP didn’t break down its analysis of the tax breaks, so we can’t calculate which bank got the best bang for their buck. Not all that lobbying spending would have gone directly to lobbying on the tax bill, though it was certainly the biggest and most relevant issue for them before Congress last year, and they hired special firms to lobby on it. It doesn’t include the money banks gave to non-profit advocacy groups that represent them, like the Financial Services Roundtable; those groups don’t have to publicly disclose anything about their donors or how much they gave.
But, you know, even if those donations doubled what they spent on lobbying the government, that’s still a 9,300% return on investment. Not Bad! It would be so rad if my pathetic savings account at Bank of America could receive the same return on investment. Or even, like, 8,000%. I’d actually take 8%, at this point. Please, give me (and Clio) some money.