- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas-week bonuses have long been commonplace in the American workplace; Christmas-week bonuses specifically tied to bills passing in Washington have not.

But it happened Wednesday as numerous major corporations, from AT&T to Wells Fargo, reacted to the passage of President Trump’s tax-reform bill by giving employees special bonuses and/or announcing major expansion and capital-spending plans in the U.S.

AT&T led the way, saying it would give more than 200,000 American employees a $1,000 bonus once the bill was signed into law, a move Mr. Trump was quick to trumpet at an afternoon victory rally.

The telecom giant also said it would increase its capital expenditures budget by $1 billion in response to the landmark legislation, which, among other things, cuts the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent.

“Congress, working closely with the President, took a monumental step to bring taxes paid by U.S. businesses in line with the rest of the industrialized world,” AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in a statement. “This tax reform will drive economic growth and create good-paying jobs. In fact, we will increase our U.S. investment and pay a special bonus to our U.S. employees.”

Mr. Trump celebrated the passage of the bill overhauling the tax code at a press conference Wednesday, flanked by House and Senate Republicans, and said “It’s always a lot of fun when you win.”

“AT&T plans to increase U.S. capital spending $1 billion and provide $1,000 special bonus to more than 200,000 U.S. employees,” he added to applause from his fellow Republicans, “and that’s because of what we did.”

The House passed the $1.5 trillion tax bill Wednesday on a 224-201 vote, sending the legislation to the White House for Mr. Trump’s signature. Lawmakers have framed the legislation as a “Christmas gift” to American families.

But AT&T wasn’t the only company spreading the holiday cheer on Wednesday.

As if to match a telecommunications rival, Comcast said later that day that it would be granting $1,000 bonuses to more than 100,000 of its employees.

Fifth Third Bancorp also announced bonuses of $1,000 to more than 13,500 employees and said it would raise its minimum hourly wage to $15. The Cincinnati-based banking corporation said approximately 3,000 employees will benefit from the wage increase.

“It is good for our communities, employees and Fifth Third Bank,” CEO Greg Carmichael said in a statement.

Wells Fargo made similar moves, saying it would boost its corporate minimum wage to $15 per hour — the level now being demanded as a national law by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

The banking giant also said it would donate $400 million to nonprofit and community organizations.

Aerospace behemoth Boeing marked the bill’s passage by announcing $300 million worth of job-training programs, facility upgrades and charitable giving.

A White House official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity that there was no prior coordination between the Trump administration’s economics team and the companies.

Democrats weren’t in a celebratory mood though, with their Senate leader calling the moves an abnormal act of charity, vastly offset by expenditures that don’t benefit workers.

The bonuses and minimum-wage boosts were “the exception, not the rule, when it comes to the biggest corporations spending their windfall,” said a statement from the office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

The statement also noted that since the first Senate tax-cut bill was passed earlier this year, 32 companies have spent or earmarked $83.7 billion to buy back their own shares.

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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