Thursday, December 21, 2017
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Final tax bill not as mean-spirited as earlier versions, but still gives virtually all benefits to rich folk, while screwing everyone else. And it will still lead to another great recession or worse
By Mark Jampole
In the days before Congress passed the so-called tax overhaul, better termed the “Reverse Robin Hood Plan,” some televisions news programs showed images of the protests, but for the most part the news media accepted as a fait accompli the passage and signing of one of the greatest transfers of wealth up the socioeconomic ladder in world history. Usually I would complain that the mainstream media is once again manifesting its bias towards covering conservative protests, ideas, intellectuals, primaries and candidates while ignoring the left, but in this case, it’s hard to blame the media. After all, if Republicans in Congress were ignoring all the experts saying the bill is a disaster for the economy and all the polls which show anywhere from 59% to 70% of all Americans opposed, why would they be moved by pickets and chants outside their door?
The final tax package is not as mean-spirited as the original House and Senate versions, but it’s still a bad bill that reflects the underlying greedy philosophy that has animated the Republican Party for years: government by the rich, of the rich and for the rich. True enough, gone are some of the more obnoxious aspects of the bill like making graduate students pay taxes on free tuition and ending the deduction for adoption programs and teachers’ classroom expenses. The cap (doubled!) on assets not subject to the estate tax remains.
The tax overhaul still gives an enormous permanent tax reduction to the wealthy, while giving smaller temporary tax breaks to everyone else.
It still favors investors over workers and business owners over employees.
It still gives a major shaft to taxpayers in the high-tax states that pay more to the federal government than they receive already and still have enough money to provide more social programs and healthcare to their citizens.
It still increases the deficit by more than a trillion dollars over the next ten years, and that’s using optimistic estimates of future economic growth and revenue collection.
It still requires the federal government to cut non-military spending, and the Republicans still intend to use the new deficits it creates to justify cutting social welfare and insurance programs even more.
And it still is a recipe for economic disaster. It will increase both income and wealth equality. The gutting of the individual mandate will throw 13 million people off healthcare insurance rolls and jack up costs 10% for everyone else. Because it makes less money available to government, it will hamstring federal and local efforts to improve our infrastructure, conduct essential research and development in basic science, educate children, address climate change and tend to the needs of the elderly and disadvantaged. It will still take money out of active circulation because rich folk already have enough money to buy what they want and will therefore put their money into dead assets like stocks that aren’t initial public offerings, bitcoins, artwork and other collectibles, bloating the value of these assets until some asset group forms a bubble.
A lot of the Republicans are brainwashed dumb asses or unthinking greed machines, but many must know of the economic disaster that the tax bill will likely engender. At the very least, they understand that their money grab for the wealthy will end up pissing off a lot of people who will lose their job or their healthcare insurance, immediately or eventually pay more in taxes, find college, healthcare and housing costs going up, drive on pothole-infested roads and drink dirty water.
The hope of Trump and the Republicans must be that those who will temporarily receive a fatter pay check starting January will be delighted and that the asset bubble won’t burst into another full-blown recession until after the 2018 election. The optimists among them may be predicting the crash won’t come until after the 2020 election, enabling the Electoral College again to give a majority of its votes to a dangerously unqualified, ignorant buffoon and giving the Republicans the right to gerrymander voting districts into victories for another 10 years. But the crash will come, and when it does, Democrats will sweep back into office and have to deal with all the messes the Republicans have created. They will have to reinstitute regulations, restock the talent of many departments, restart oversight programs, revise language on websites, return the voting rolls to full democracy, reverse short-sighted decisions based on nonsense that went against the best interests of our citizens, renew relationships with many other countries and rededicate the country to the ideals of an open, secular, democratic society. And yes, the Dems will have to raise taxes on the wealthy, but just as the tax increases after the Reagan and Bush II tax giveaways to rich folk, probably not to the current level. Thus the trend since the 1960’s of society expecting less of the wealthy and more of everyone else will continue.
By the time the Democrats get back in control (or reason returns to the Republican Party), a lot of damage will have been done to millions of people in the United States and in the countries where we have military operations, our economy, the environment and global stability. Our reputation in the world will be in tatters and its possible our allies and adversaries may have moved on without us in trade, peace, arms, development and environmental agreements.
Also by that time, however, the current stock of Republican congressional representatives and senators will have secured cozy and lucrative sinecures with lobbyists, law firms, businesses or rightwing think tanks. Of course, the possibility exists that large numbers of white people will continue to channel their rage and frustration at their personal hard times into racial tribalism and thus continue to vote for right-wing candidates who speak in code and pander to their worst instincts. As the Alabama special Senate election proved, the call of racism is still strong.
But Doug Jones’s upset of Roy Moore also proved the power of getting out the vote, which nowadays depends to a large extend on organized efforts to overcome the many barriers that Republican-controlled states have erected to voting since 2010. The Alabama turnout, while only 32%, was considered heavy for a special election, which is shameful but also points out how many potential voters are out there. Surveys almost always demonstrate that Americans are much more liberal on economic, foreign policy and social issues than our politicians are. We like to blame big money for the current gang of deplorables running Congress and the White House, but big money does not elect people. It only funds their campaigns. Voters elect, and for far too long, too few of them have made their voices known. The result is the abomination of a tax bill which will end up crippling the U.S. economy.