Never has giving away more than $1 trillion been so difficult.
Republicans in Washington are on their way to a massive overhaul of the US tax code. With a package that’s heavily tilted toward wealthy individuals and large, multinational corporations, the tax plan will further exacerbate income inequality.
As if that wasn’t enough, the tax bill does a lot more, much of it having nothing to do with tax policy.
It allows drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It undermines renewable energy. It provides a bonus to wealthy people who send their kids to private school. It takes health care away from 13 million people.
In short, it’s bad tax policy, bad environmental policy, bad health care policy, and bad education policy – all rolled into one.
But it is only the beginning.
It also explodes the deficit. Now I want to be clear: There are times when deficit spending makes sense and there are things that are worth borrowing money for.
During a recession, it’s sound policy for the federal government to inject money into the economy for job creation and to stabilize state governments. It’s sound policy to invest in infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, railroads and airports, which are the backbone of the economy. It’s smart to invest in new technologies, innovation and communications, such as expanding access to broadband.
It is not smart, however, to yank out the credit card to give a massive handout to the super wealthy and to multinational corporations, which are already flush with cash.
And it’s not good policy to spend like a drunken sailor to benefit the already well-to-do when the economy is largely performing well. Our collective hands will be tied the next time we face an economic downturn.
Under the tax bill, rich people can avoid taxes on estates up to $22 million. That’s crazy. It’s a path toward inequality and oligarchy.
It didn’t have to be this way. It would have been possible to develop a tax reform plan that really did help the middle class and the folks who are struggling, particularly in rural areas where the economy has been slow to recover from the recession.
But instead, Republicans opted for a giveaway to their friends.
The real sin, though, is still to come.
Republican leaders in Congress aren’t even pretending about what comes next. It’s not a wink in a nod. It’s a Snidely Whiplash–Montgomery Burns, evil movie character play for the backbone of the New Deal and Great Society.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in their sights.
They will use the deficit – the one that they just exploded – as an excuse to try to ram through cuts in popular, successful programs.
Social Security is a masterfully design program that helps to prevent poverty among retirees. Along with Medicare and Medicaid, it helps to ensure older people are able to live in dignity and get the care that they need.
Unless Congress takes action – no sure thing given the institution’s inability to even reauthorize health insurance for kids, build roads or pass a budget – there will be automatic cuts to Medicare and other programs.
That’s right, unless Congress acts, Republicans will get exactly what they want. I take no comfort in promises that the cuts won’t be allowed to happen.
Voters largely see right through the dodge. They don’t believe the tax bill will help them and they are likely to defend Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid with an energy our political system has not seen in recent decades.
Frankly, it’s shocking the lengths that Republicans are willing to go to give money to big businesses at the expense of actual real people.
Voters in Maine have made it clear, they want more people to have health insurance, not less. They want more investment in education, not less. They are tired of a system that’s rigged against working people and for faceless corporations.
There is an awakening happening, and it won’t end with the tax bill. When Congress comes for Medicare and Social Security – and the Republicans have said that they will – it will make the tax protests look like story time in kindergarten.
Maybe I’m wrong, and it will be impossible for voters to stay engaged with the never-ending torrent of awful coming out of Washington. But I don’t think so.
Republicans are governing like there’s no accountability, no Election Day around the corner. Isaac Newton wasn’t a politician. But he called it right: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Hold tight: The reaction is still building.