Cleaning Up What the Elephants Leave Behind
Having grown up in and around the movie industry, we got to know quite a number of actors, directors, choreographers . . . even a thespic animal or two. One of my favorites was a broken-back horse named "Mickey," who appeared in a couple of dozen Mack Sennett flicks. Being a devotee of "Roy Rogers," and "The Lone Ranger," not to mention that we, as a family were friends of Bill Williams (née Hermann Katt, the star of "The Adventures of Kit Carson") and his wife Barbara Hale (Della Street on "Perry Mason") plus getting to spend an inordinate amount of time at Corriganville, (the Western movie set out in Simi Valley), I often found myself wondering whose job it was to rid the streets of all the horse manure. Think about it: did you ever once see a speck of horse plop on the streets of Matt Dillon's Dodge or Roy Rogers' Mineral City?" Obviously, there were people in Hollywood who made their livings shoveling tons of equine drek between takes. About the only Western star whose penchant for stark realism demanded horse droppings on his befouled sets was the greatest of them all, William S. Hart.
So what in the world do horse plop and classic Western movies have to do with this week's topic? Actually quite a bit. Just as as it required a team of devoted sweepers to sanitize the streets of Dodge (or Mineral or Virginia City) from the loads of crap left by all the horses, so too does it take a cadre of devoted Donkeys (Democrats) to clean up all the dangerous droppings left behind by the Elephants (Republicans). Take the Republicans' recently reconciled Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which few members of Congress have read and even fewer understand. This bill includes something for everyone to hate - unless you are incredibly rich or incredibly stupid. For besides drastically reducing the nation's corporate tax rate from 35% (which few currently pay) down to 21% and being a boon to the super wealthy, their bill would:
- Put a lethal stake into the very heart of Obamacare, taking health insurance away from 34 Million Americans who will go back to using the ER as their primary care physician;
- Repeal the Alternate Minimum Tax for corporations while letting it remain for individuals and couples;
- Repeal the deductibility of home equity loans;
- Nearly double the amount of inherited wealth exempt from tax to about $10 million from a current $5.6 million;
- Repeal the deductability of alimony payments, which will wreak havoc with low- and middle-income folks seeking a divorce while further lining the pockets or their attornies;
- Repeal the Johnson Amendment — a 1954 measure which prohibits houses of worship and other tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates;
- Eliminate the state and local tax deduction, which is taken by many people in high-tax (read "blue"), populous states to avoid double taxation. These states include New York, California, New Jersey and Massachusetts;
- Eliminate employer-provided educational assistance, the student loan interest deduction, and other critical higher education tax provisions;
- Add between $1 and $1.5 trillion to the federal budget deficit over the next decade, which will necessitate deep cuts in such social programs as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in order to pay for it as well as drastically slashing the budgets of most every federal department and agency with the possible exception of the Department of Defense.
This then s the long-promised "major, major tax overhaul" which would
- Drastically cut corporate taxes;
- Lop thousands upon thousands of pages from the IRS regs;
- Simplify tax filing to the point where one could submit their taxes on a single postcard;
- Put lots of money into the pockets of middle-class taxpayers,
- Be absolutely "revenue neutral," and
- Make America fiscally great again.
Never mind that at most, the Republican plan will put $20.00 a week back into the pockets of middle-class wage earners (at least for the first couple of years), take away any number of basic deductions for those earning less than $75,000 a year, and create new ways in which so-called "Pass-Through businesses," millionaires, multi-millionaires and billionaires can vastly increase their wealth. And all this Congress has managed to shape, create, tweak and likely pass behind closed doors. At 500-odd pages, it is by no means the longest piece of legislation in the history of the Republic; just the worst conceived cut-and-paste mean-spirited giveaway of all time. For months, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin had been talking about the painstaking analysis that hundreds of his employees were engaged in preparing twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Well, that analysis finally was released this past Monday. It could easily have been contained on a single postcard. Come to think of it, a single page or postcard is most fitting for this travesty, considering that the economic theory which underpins it all ("Trickle-Down," which was based on the so-called "Laffer Curve") was originally written on a single cocktail napkin.
One of the most devilishly clever aspects of this lobbyist-written plan is that all the changes affecting corporations and the hyper-wealthy are legislatively in perpetuity, while those which, at first blush may be helpful for the non-wealthy, have a life-span of only a few years. That is when the draconian cuts begin - those additional revenues and fiscal savings required to make sure the tax code continues enriching the already rich. For devotees of trickle-down this makes sense: once the rich get even richer, they will spend their newfound pelf on creating jobs here at home, thus putting more dollars into the pockets of American consumers.
Right . . . and there was never any horse crap on the ground at the OK Corral. Just ask Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, or Hank Fonda and Randolph Scott.
It is left to the Democrats to pick up the brooms and shovels and clean up this Elephant-made mess. But it will not be enough to merely explain and endlessly repeat what the pachyderms hath wrought. The Republican base - most of whom will suffer along with the rest of us - could care less; their leaders have told them it's a real mitzvah to help the rich get even richer. Those who know or even sense that the Republicans have legalized a ginormous game of Three Card Monty don't want to hear about it; they want to know what the Democrats are planning to do about it. And not just some Huey Long "Soak the Rich!" cure-all. No, in order to be successful in 2018, 2020 and beyond, Democrats are going to have to do a lot of soul searching, deep creative thinking and come up with specific proposals for how we're going to retake the future on behalf of America's working- and middle-class people. We're going to have to talk about:
- Making major investments in education that will place far, far more emphasis on putting future skills into the hands of students than siphoning off dollars to put into the pockets of charter school pirates.
- Committing ourselves as a nation to rebuilding our infrastructure and retrofitting our power grids: roads, national highways, bridges, dams, levees. And not just for the sake of creating millions of jobs; infrastructure is as much a part of national defense as are bombs, bullets and counterintelligence.
- Addressing and acting upon those things which truly matter to the American public, such as healthcare, retirement and gun safety rather than divisive, diverting dog-whistle issues like "religious freedom for White Christians"; putting more and more guns into the hands of already well-armed people; deporting millions upon millions of undocumented human beings and constructing an American "Maginot Line" specifically designed to keep them out; making sure that evolution and climate change aren't "rammed down the throats of our children."
It's a tall, messy, malodorous order; this cleaning up of what the elephants leave behind, but someone's got to do it for the sake of America and the future of the planet.
331 days down, 1,127 to go.
Copyright©2017 Kurt F. Stone