The Republican tax bill is really quite breathtaking in its audacity

The Thinker by Rodin

Those of us of sufficient age will remember when W’s father, George H. W. Bush was running for president. The elder Bush’s famous words during the campaign were: “Read my lips: no new taxes.” It was infamous because after he won election in 1988 he made a deal with Democrats that modestly raised taxes.

Since that time it’s been anathema for any Republican to even think about raising taxes.

Next week the U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on its version of a tax bill that will raise taxes, just like the House bill. To make this worse, they are dramatically cutting taxes on the wealthy and making the already stretched middle and lower classes generally pay more in taxes.

And it doesn’t seem to be bothering Republicans at all, which is perhaps the most amazing part. Since Ronald Reagan declared government and taxes evil, never raising taxes has been the nonstop diatribe from Republicans. Now although trying to paint their legislation as a tax cut, no one actually believes it is one. Virtually every analysis shows that it will increase the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion plus add taxes for most middle and lower income people. It’s also likely the resulting exploding deficit will give them reason to cut social services back even further.

The Republicans think that if they can get through this through Congress and into law, it’s one point for their side in an otherwise miserable legislative year when they have controlled all levers of power. They think their voters will be thrilled. Any objective person though looking at this turd of legislation will see it as an abdication of nearly forty years of Republican bedrock orthodoxy. Any Republican rank-and-file who actually believed this stuff should be dumfounded.

Just last year when Obama was still president Republicans were threatening to shut down the government if proposed spending bills were not revenue neutral. “We can’t leave our grandchildren with a mountain of debt”, we heard in many variations ad nauseum. Now, adding another $1.5T to the debt? No problemo.

It’s not news to Democrats that Republicans were not sincere about debt reduction, at least not when they were in charge. It exploded under Reagan, and again under Bush II. When Bush II’s Medicare Part D bill was voted into law, it was done at 3 AM in the House chambers so it would be less obvious how hypocritical Republicans were being. Maybe they felt a little ashamed. They might try the same strategy this time but I don’t think it will work and I doubt feeling ashamed about what they plan to do has even entered their minds.

Still, it takes amazing audacity to give huge tax cuts and inheritance windfalls to the very richest while bleeding the working class even more. This is explainable: all Republicans really care about is the moneyed class and making them even more so. They got control of the Executive and Congress. Now is the time to squeeze the system for themselves and their special moneyed interests. It’s the culmination of decades of strategy to convince Americans to act against their own self-interest. That $1.5T deficit? The only reason that’s there is because they have to get this bill through the Senate using budget reconciliation rules, i.e. Republicans-only so it could only add so much to the deficit, at least officially. Without the rule maybe there would have been no lower and middle class tax increases. To give the rich this tax windfall though and keep the deficit spending to $1.5T, they had to squeeze someone. Couldn’t be them of course, so lower and middle classes it has to be.

And Trump? The guy who ran as an outsider and promised to help the working class? To make America great again? The candidate who during one of the first debates openly admitted he traded money for favor from politicians? The charlatan that Americans elected who ran promising he’d do exactly the opposite? Why he’s all in on this tax bill, of course! His family will reap at least $1B in estate tax relief alone from its passage in its current form. What’s not to like about that? It’s pretty clear what Trump is all about. He’s about bleeding the government dry mainly to enrich himself and his empire. He goes golfing pretty much every weekend at one of his resorts to make sure the Secret Service has to pay usury rates to rent his golf carts and stay in his hotels. Much of the rest of his administration is looking out for either themselves and/or their sponsors. Education Secretary DeVos is trying to move tax dollars toward charter schools. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is downsizing national monuments so private interests can mine and frack gas on nearby lands including possibly the Grand Canyon. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin when not posing holding sheets of dollar bills with his wife is trying to loosen regulations on Wall Street, the same regulations that caused the Great Recession.

In short Trump’s voters — but really the vast majority of Americans — are being played for suckers. It’s time for Republicans to give America that high colonic of their dreams. With the oligarchy in charge, it’s time to fleece the sheep just as winter approaches instead of afterward.

Or so they think. I think a wave is building and come November 2018 Republicans are going to discover the wrath of the American voter. It’s quite similar to the late 19th century when homeless urchins roamed the streets while the Carnegies and Rockefellers lived the life of Gatsby. Back then the voters spoke and a true progressive called Teddy Roosevelt won office, along with a massive wave of Republicans (who were the modern day Democrats of their time). Too big to fail corporations were broken up. National Parks multiplied. Government represented the people again.

Granted the challenge will be harder in 2018. In the late 19th century the art of gerrymandering had not yet been perfected. Blacks and women were disenfranchised but that was the status quo; however there were enough regular folk out there with voting rights to sweep the oligarchy out of power. I’m anticipating that’s what we’ll see in 2018. It’s not really Republican vs. Democrat anymore, it’s big business against the rest of us. It will be mostly Republicans but also a lot of corporate Democrats that will pay the price this time.

No time like the present holiday season for Republicans to play the part of the Grinch. In 2018 though Republicans and their ilk are likely to find their game is over.

Can we skip 2017? And 2018-2020?

The Thinker by Rodin

For the first time in my adult life, I won’t be watching the inauguration tomorrow. Of course when I watched it, I always watched it on television. You get a great view and there is never a line at the restroom. Unlike with Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009, it’s unlikely that the national mall will be jammed to capacity tomorrow. In fact, it may be the least attended inauguration in forty years or more.

It’s not surprising. District of Columbia residents voted 94% for Clinton, so they’re not going to show up. Both nearby Virginia and Maryland also went for Clinton, as well as the country. Clinton after all won the popular vote by over 2.9 million votes. Last I read DC officials had approved 200 bus permits for inauguration day, a record low. The protests the day afterward has at least 1000 bus permits approved. If you want to see hoopla, you might want to wait to turn on the TV until Saturday. So many entertainers have refused to perform at his inauguration festivities that he may be reduced to the U.S. army band. At least they can be made to attend.

Anyhow, I won’t be watching. I’ll be avoiding media tomorrow, which is one reason I’m getting this off today. For many of us it will be a black day, made blacker by the overwhelming nature of the unqualified people Donald Trump has chosen for his cabinet. One after another they embarrassed themselves at their confirmation hearings. Nominee Rick Perry at least apologized for wanting to get rid of the Department of Energy. He was so naïve that he had no idea that its principal mission is to regulate our atomic energy and nuclear stockpile. Even a Tea Party Republican will make an exception for the Department of Energy, well, at least those who take the time to learn about its mission, and that wasn’t Rick Perry. And so it went and is going, nominee after nominee. If you were looking for the least qualified people to head up the departments they will probably be running, they’ve been in front of Congress exposing their woeful ignorance. But I guess if you are trying to drain the swamp, why not throw in a whole bunch of stink bombs and hope the swamp’s denizens quickly evacuate?

Some really can’t leave, and that includes some three million federal employees, one of which used to be me. I spent my last ten years before retirement with the U. S. Geological Survey, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. A big part of its mission (aside from the earthquakes) is monitoring climate change. Our new president has declared it to be a hoax created by the Chinese, so naturally plenty of them are scared they will be intimidated into publishing false science or fired when their mission is declared over.

For over 100 years, even through conservative administrations like Bush II and Reagan, the USGS has been protected from political pressure. That’s probably not going to happen this time around, at least not with Ryan Zinke as the new Interior Secretary. When Bush II was president, the USGS got an Alaskan geologist for its director, and even he managed to leave the USGS nonpolitical. Naturally, I keep in touch with many of my former colleagues still working there. They are appalled and frightened by the ignoramus in chief about to be unleashed. Those who could retire mostly opted to do so on January 1.

Trump has already promised to freeze federal hiring. If draining the swamp means destroying a government we’ve spent centuries carefully building, this is a great way to affect change. The federal workforce is predominantly older anyhow. Without fresh blood coming in, it’s going to wither on the vine. Each agency is a complex system. Knowledge is primarily transferred via mentoring. With older employees leaving and no new ones coming in, those left will be increasingly ignorant, just like their new leaders.

There are signs that America is waking up. Saturday we’ll see plenty of them on the mall angrily protesting. Trump’s pre-inauguration approval ratings are dismal, reaching levels not seen since Jimmy Carter was sworn in. As his appointees get confirmed and bumble badly through their new roles, the press will be rife with lurid stories reporting their endless boondoggles. Obama ran a virtually scandal-free administration. Trump’s has already started; it’s clear that from the moment he is sworn in he’ll be in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the constitution.

For Trump, it’s unlikely that Republicans will hold him to account for it. Once the master bullies, they are now the bullied. Trump warns them via tweets that they better not oppose him. They would be wise not to do so, as his supporters will raise holy hell if they do. These portraits of courage under Obama will prove wallflowers under Trump. So expect Republicans mostly to sit on their hands while we drop Russian sanctions, reduce our commitment to NATO and as he makes impulsive and catastrophically bad decisions in the months and years ahead.

For me this would be a good time to go into a coma, to be woken in four or eight years. I’m not sure we’ll still have a country then, but I’m hardly the only one not anxious not to watch this predictable wreckage to our once great country. I can fight like hell, but traveling 400 miles to D.C. to protest Saturday won’t be one action I’ll take, although there are plenty of marches locally that I can easily attend.

Or I could do what my wife is doing and literally escape. Her birthday falls on Inauguration Day. I happened to be out of town the night Trump was elected. I came home to find her barely functional, all her muscles tense, sleepless, with chronic headaches and crying a lot. Most of her friends are in the LGBTQ community and they were in a similar state. In the weeks that followed she did not get much better. Her relief is to fly to Aruba, hole up at a B&B near the beach for a few days, read trash and go nowhere near the news. She comes back early Monday morning at which time I expect she will be headachy again, her muscles all taunt, her lower back a mass of agony and despondent. And then the real carnage starts. But at least for a few days she can escape it all.

Welcome to 2017. Thought 2016 was bad? It was just a warm-up.