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Tax Reform as a Trojan Horse and the Muffled Mumblings of the Democrats

Drowning the beast. 

"They are gutting the energy industry sector that is actually creating the most jobs.  Why? Because they are indebted to the coal, oil and gas industry." (Photo: Megan Behm/Twitter)

"They are gutting the energy industry sector that is actually creating the most jobs.  Why? Because they are indebted to the coal, oil and gas industry." (Photo: Megan Behm/Twitter)

No matter how horrible you think the Republican’s tax bill is, it’s worse than you think. This is not simply a reform of the tax system to favor the rich – although it is certainly that – it is the culmination of an organized assault on progressive governance that began nearly four decades ago.  A close examination of the provisions buried in the “reform” reveals how this bill is nothing less than a grab bag of initiatives that the majority of Americans opposed, but which the Republicans couldn’t pass any other way. Let’s look at some of these “reforms,” then examine how the fabric of our body politic was shredded in order to bring us to the point where an atrocity like this could succeed.

Tax Reform as a Trojan Horse

Among the “reforms” embedded in this abomination is a provision that opens up part of the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and drilling.  This, at a time when we know we have to leave 80 percent of the proven reserves we’ve already identified in the ground to avoid cataclysmic global warming.  But of course, this is part of the Republican jihad on anything to do with climate change.

For example, their “reform” also repeals tax credits for renewable energy – something that has enabled the US to retain a competitive position in one of the fastest growing job creators in the economy. So, in a bill they claim is designed to create jobs, they are gutting the energy industry sector that is actually creating the most jobs.  Why? Because they are indebted to the coal, oil and gas industry.

While we’re on the topic of jobs, one has to wonder why we’re so hell bent to create jobs in an economy that is nominally at full employment.  Yes, we need better paying jobs, but that would require things like supporting unions and a higher minimum wage – things Republicans universally reject.

One final thought about jobs and prosperity.  Republicans say that giving corporations a tax cut will put more money in the pockets of the middle class because companies will invest it in productive endeavors.  Never mind that companies are sitting on several trillions of dollars of cash right now, and aren’t making those kinds of investments; never mind that this “trickle-down” scam had failed virtually every time it’s been tried.  No, the real sign that they’re simply lying through their teeth is that if they really wanted to put more money in the pockets of the middle class and working poor, they’d simply give that big permanent tax cut directly to the people.

Back to the Trojan horse. The provision in their tax “reform”eliminating the mandate that all Americans have health care coverage or pay a penalty will essentially cripple the Affordable Care Act, something the people overwhelmingly fought when Republicans attempted to “repeal and replace” Obamacare earlier this year.  This provision will save some $300 billion, to cover part of the costs of permanent cuts in the corporate tax rates and those for the ultra-rich.  It will also cause health premiums to rise as much as 10 percent a year, and eliminate health care for 13 million Americans.  But, hey, what’s the health of millions of Americans compared to more billions for billionaires?  Oh, and if you’re one of the lucky non-billionaires to actually get a few paltry pennies in tax cuts from these plutocrats –  the working poor won’t but some of the middle class will -- don’t forget, yours are not only tiny, but they are also temporary.

But the real con the Republicans are running will come after they succeed in hashing out the differences between the Senate and House versions of this screw-job in conference. Either way, the cost of giving corporations and the ultra-rich huge tax cuts will add between $1 and $1.5 trillion to the deficit, something the normally deficit hawks in the Republicans seem blithely unconcerned about at the moment.

But already, the sleeping deficit hawks are awakening.  Why could they tolerate adding a trillion or so to the deficit, but suddenly go all fiscally responsible once their scam was close to approval? 

Simple. The Republicans have never been concerned about the deficit or debt.  Cutting revenue was just a way to cut programs that were too popular to cut directly.  Remember, under Reagan and Bush the US added more to the deficit than all previous Presidents combined – that starts with George Washington, and extends to George Bush by the way.

And the targets that will soon “need” to be cut to handle the newly exploded deficit?  Why Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, of course.  Watch the posturing, as you’ll hear over and over again some version of, “Oh, we’d love to support these programs, but you see, the country just can’t afford it.”

Yeah, can’t afford health care for people, but we can afford to lower corporate tax rates and cut taxes for the rich, increasing income disparity. Go figure.

Bottom line: This is just another reincarnation of Grover Norquist’s and Ronald Reagan’s drown- the-beast strategy, with a little payola added for the campaign contributors.

Democrats, Trying to Beat Something with Nothing

Democrats have been in high dudgeon about the unfairness of it all.  But that’s about it.  They’ve refused to put an alternative on the table.

Why?

Simple.  Advocating what they’re for, would force them to take a stand against the big contributors they depend upon to get elected.  This of course, is why they’re losing elections.  People are wise to this hypocrisy.  So, while Republicans can claim to be cutting taxes, Democrats can claim they’re … er, well … angry.  This is also why a majority of Americans don’t think  the Democratic Party stands for anything.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Democrats could be talking about the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s People's Budget, which contains a lot more tax reform than the Republican’s corporate-friendly “tax reform,” and it benefits the middle class and working poor, while cutting the growth in the deficit.

If they did this, Democrats could be  running on universal access to a college education, transitions to much cheaper single payer health care, lower drug prices, massive infrastructure investments, increased taxes on the uber-rich, closing corporate tax loopholes, serious increases in job creation, a higher minimum wage and cuts to the bloated Defense budget.

But even when they simply object to the Republican’s tax reform, their objections are lame. They could cite examples of how this trickle- down approach has failed and failed miserably every time it’s been tried.  Most recently, there’s Kansas, where Sam Brownback’s version of tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy failed to stimulate the economy and nearly bankrupted the state.  It was so bad, Kansas’ conservative legislature passed a veto-proof bill rescinding Brownback’s cuts.  In Louisiana, the magic trickle-down fairy also failed to show up and the state turned a $1 billion surplus into a projected $1.6 billion deficit. Finally, at the federal level, extensive data shows there’s virtually no correlation between tax cuts and economic growth.

So there you have it.  Republicans are using the pretext of job growth to cut taxes at a time when the nation is functionally at full employment. And there is no evidence that their solution to the problem that doesn’t exist ever worked, and a great deal showing it hasn’t. Finally, we’ve seen how they’ve created deficits in the past, the used them to justify cutting popular programs they otherwise couldn’t cut.

Meanwhile, the mealy-mouthed Democrats – who could take the CPC’s budget and run with it, while pointing out that trickle-down and supply-side are a giant con game run at the people’s expense – are standing around griping instead, with less than a year until the 2018 midterms.

In 2016, progressives sent Democrats a message – we’re done with least-worse candidates.  But it doesn’t look like anyone’s listening.

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John Atcheson

John Atcheson

screen_shot_2017-07-26_at_9.09.47_pm.pngJohn Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, and he has just completed a book on the 2016 elections titled, WTF, America? How the US Went Off the Rails and How to Get It Back On Track, available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @john_atcheson

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