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Buyback blowback: Why politicians on the right and left are targeting stock repurchases

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Buyback blowback: Why lawmakers on the right and left are targeting stock...

When President Donald Trump signed the GOP tax cut in December 2017, he said it would create "jobs, jobs, jobs." The $1.5 trillion plan took effect the next month, lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

The sweeping tax reform measures were supposed to spur corporations to reinvest those savings back into their own companies for research and capital expenditures such as new equipment, offices and factories.

That would create jobs and employment opportunities and allow companies to pay higher salaries.

Many businesses did spend more on internal projects, at least initially. But business investment slowed later in the year, as concerns about the economy grew.

At the same time, companies used their cash to buy back a record $1.1 trillion worth of their own shares. And that's drawn the ire of politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Democrats have proposed limiting buybacks unless companies raise their minimum wage to $15 and agree to other employee benefits. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has suggested raising the capital gains rate to discourage buybacks.

SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson Jr. recently expressed his belief that most buybacks are better for executives than for shareholders. And that could give new momentum for the Securities and Exchange Commission to change the rules.