We Are So Screwed

When the Republican Senate passed its tax “reform” bill just after midnight on December 2, journalist Kurt Eichenwald sent this tweet: “America died tonight. Economic suicide adopted to feed the insatiable greed of donors, who have been refusing to dole out $ to GOP until they got their tax cuts. Voters fooled by propaganda and tribal hatred. Millenials: move away if you can. USA is over. We killed it.”

I wouldn’t be quite THAT pessimistic, but we are seriously running out of options, given that one ruling party (the Democrats) are not currently in power and doesn’t have any ideas for how to turn things around if they were, while the current majority (Republicans) are not merely mistaken but outright destructive.

The actual tax reform bill as passed by the Senate still included several points amended on the copies with markers. This is going to come back and bite Republicans in the ass when they find out the (“) symbol means inches and not feet.

What we have is being passed off by liberals as “economic libertarianism.” Which is BS. Of course I’m going to say that because I’m a Libertarian. But assume that economic libertarianism is based on the axiom “taxation is theft.” (Not like liberals have given a better definition of it.) You can say that that attitude is blinkered and just plain wrong. But even taking it at face value, it would mean that we should tax as few people as possible, and as little as possible. What this bill is is a scheme to have as few people as possible pay as little as possible while in many areas, we are maintaining or even expanding government spending on the backs of the other income levels by removing the exemptions and services that will be given to the upper income levels. In other words, it would be a tax increase on many of us. Hardly libertarian.

The thing that neither the Left or the Right are willing to admit is that if you already have wealth and power, you don’t need the government to give you more. That is not why a (classically) liberal democratic republic exists. In fact, the Founders created this country to rebel against the previous paradigm where a government was set up specifically to take the resources of the majority and use them solely for the benefit of the hereditary elite. This idea may stick in the craw of America’s “conservatives”, but then the idea that “all men are created equal” offended a lot of people, too.

But if it’s easy for liberals to say that libertarianism (whether of the Republican or Libertarian Party variety) is just a giveaway to the rich, and if the rest of the country more or less accepts that, that’s because the primary promotion of an economically libertarian or “fiscally conservative” platform is that of Paul Ryan and his ilk. And the result does more to promote socialism than anything the Left could come up with on their own merits.

What’s really sad is that the reason for pushing so hard on a bill that practically nobody wants is that the Republicans care more about their wealthy donor class than voters (given how much they gin the election system to keep safe seats, and how little Republicans care about what their own party does to them). There’s just one problem. The “fiscally conservative” Republicans were so eager to stick it to blue states with their plan that they alienated wealthy donors in those states, since the tax “reform” eliminates a lot of the previous deductions that were given to residents of high-tax states like New York, where a lot the richest Republicans live. So according to the Washington Examiner: “I think checkbooks stay closed until they see how it plays out,” said Eric R. Levine, a Manhattan attorney and Republican donor who bundled contributions for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in 2016. “I’m not even trying to raise money in the fourth quarter.” Because donors “foresee higher personal taxes under a plan that axes deductions for state and local taxes without offering what they consider compensatory reductions in marginal income rates, even with the repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax that hits many upper-middle-class Americans. They resent that the bill excludes their white-collar service professions — think law, finance, and consulting — from the bill’s lower small-business rate, even as it shrinks the corporate levy to 20 percent from 35 percent. ”

Oh, and it gets even gooder. Just today (Dec. 4) nymag.com had an article from Eric Levitz clarifying just one case of how Republican hastiness on the tax scam is already biting them in the ass. In order to get all the cuts the Senate bill needed while still adding only so much (just $1.5 trillion) to the deficit, McConnell had to scramble for other means of making up revenue. At present, the country has a corporate tax of 35 percent- which is subject to modification by various deductions, down to a minimum tax of 20 percent. The alternative minimum tax was supposed to have been removed in the first Senate bill, but in order to help make up the gap, they put it back in as part of the last round of wheeler-dealing. However, they forgot to lower the absolute minimum below 20% – which is where the base corporate tax rate is in the new bill. This makes all the various deductions and investments hitherto used to lower corporate taxes useless. Levitz quotes a Wall Street Journal article (paywall) in which the head of Murray Energy Corp spoke: ““What the Senate did, in their befuddled mess, is drove me out of business and then bragged about the fact that they got some tax reform passed,” Mr. Murray said in an interview Sunday. “This is not job creation. This is not stimulating income. This is driving a whole sector of our community into nonexistence.” Murray Energy, by the way, is a coal company.

All of which means that, given that Big Money is all that Republicans have going for them, dissension in the ranks makes it that much harder for Republicans to maintain the support they need going into the 2018 midterms. Midterms usually are a hostile environment for the ruling party, but Republicans made things that much worse for themselves with their legislation this year. Of course they felt the need to pass all the things on their agenda now that they finally had the opportunity to do so. Because they finally had a Republican president in the White House who would sign their dream bills and help them make America great again.

Yeah, about that.

On Friday December 1, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn – who had already left his joint defense agreement with Donald Trump’s legal team – pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI in regard to communications made with then-Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak before Trump’s inauguration. And as predicted, later in the day it was stated that Flynn was in agreement to testify about his knowledge of communications between “senior administration officials” on this matter, the current rumor being that the main “senior official” being implicated was Trump’s son-in-law and Schmuck Without Portfolio Jared Kushner.

And in response, on Saturday December 3, Trump tweeted:

I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”

9:14 AM – 2 Dec 2017

Raising, among other questions, how did he know Flynn had lied to the FBI at that time?

To paraphrase Dr. King’s Bible quote, the arc of the moral universe is long, but Trump won’t shut his fucking mouth.

But later that day, the Trump team announced that Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, was the one who drafted the tweet.  Oh, so that wasn’t Trump that posted that incriminating tweet, now that he realizes what he did. It was his lawyer. His PROFESSIONAL LAWYER. Who posted something that would tie Trump to the Flynn case. In Trump’s name.

Well, I guess that completely exonerates Trump. I mean, if this is what the White House sends out after consulting with a lawyer, imagine what Trump would have revealed if he’d just shot his mouth off.

(Dowd, by the way, was noted in Wikipedia as a Trump staffer who forwarded an email from a conspiracy theorist to conservative media saying that Black Lives Matter was infiltrated by terrorists and that there was no difference between George Washington and Robert E. Lee.)

I sincerely doubt that Trump’s lawyer posted that tweet. If only because a real lawyer, when asked to vet that statement, would respond by yanking Trump’s smartphone out of his hand, throwing it against the wall and then stomping it to a million bits while Trump watched, as a professional opinion on why that statement should not be made on Twitter.

In any case, this would beg the question, “just how fucking stupid do you have to be to believe this slimy criminal?” but this is the Republican Party we’re dealing with. Ultimately I have to attribute Trump’s motive in making that post to one of two thoughts:

“I can admit to anything because Paul ‘Paulie Numbnuts’ Ryan and Mitch ‘the Bitch’ McConnell will always be there to protect me”

or

“Somebody stop me. Somebody please stop me.”

Unfortunately it’s not that simple. A lot of Republicans might be willing to toss Trump to get Vice President Pence to take over, since he’s a more sincerely conservative Republican than Trump and would be less likely to incriminate himself on Twitter. However it may already be too late. See, the stated reason that Trump fired Flynn was because Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence (who was running the pre-inaugural transition) about contacts with Russia. If Flynn lied to Congress about this, and this lie was the same thing he told Pence (according to big-mouth Trump) then if Trump knew it was a lie at the time and this incriminates him it is hard to see how it doesn’t incriminate Mike Pence. Thus, any charge that is substantial enough to incriminate Trump could also incriminate Pence for the same reason. If the President is removed from office and the Vice President is also not able to serve, the law states that succession falls to the Speaker of the House.

Which means that the acting president would be Paul Ryan. AKA “Paulie Numbnuts.”

Unless of course Mueller is allowed to drag this thing out past the point of the 2018 midterms, and in the perhaps 50-50 chance that Democrats can actually capitalize on Republicans’ unpopularity, then the third in line after Pence would most likely be House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

You know, the liberal feminist who at first defended John Conyers against sexual harassment charges and called him an icon of Congress.

Nancy “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it” Pelosi.

We really are screwed, aren’t we?

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