Merry Christmas, Mr. Grinch

Y’ever feel like ya been cheated? HA haha.”

-Johnny Rotten

This Friday, almost as an afterthought, Viceroy Donald Trump signed the tax bill that was just passed by the Republican Congress, marking the only time this entire year that he and his party had managed a legislative accomplishment. The passage of the bill inspired a lot of conservative columnists, insisting (despite holding their nose at Donald Trump himself) that this tax bill might do some good.

Indeed it might. The tax bill does accomplish a few things that economists on all sides had wanted. For one, it reduces the corporate rate from 35 to 21 percent, which is a lot closer to where most developed countries have it. Likewise, most countries don’t insist on taxing business income in the US, whereas this country insists on taxing all income regardless of whether you live here. Changing to a territorial tax system eliminates this unfairness (at least for a corporation) and the unfairness of being double taxed. Most of the liberal commentary on the bill is comparing it negatively to previous reforms such as Reagan’s 1986 tax reform. In other words, using an example of supply-side policy that they hated at the time as a successful example of tax policy, in order to explain why THIS supply-side proposal isn’t going to work.

But given these facts, it is testimony to Republican incompetence and disorganization that the tax bill is more unpopular with the public than previous tax hikes. These guys could manage to screw up a Free Hookers and Blow Act. Part of it is that contrary to Paul Ryan’s cheerleading, the scheme does the opposite of simplifying the tax code.  And the layers of the legislation continue to reveal their flaws. In New York Magazine, liberal Eric Levitz points out that the Right actually did the Left’s dirty work for it in removing deductions for the middle class and thus forcing them to pay more of the burdens of Big Government.  Moreover, the removal of state-and-local tax deduction (SALT) could have unintended consequences. Levitz quotes another source saying that state governments could compensate for the loss of revenue by allowing residents to make charitable gifts to the state instead of paying state income tax, said gifts being eligible for federal tax deduction.

This is what conservatives and libertarians have been saying all along. If you are rich, altruistic and civic-minded, and you think that the government should be doing such-and-such because they have the resources and wherewithal to do so, then YOU should fund that project yourself. I don’t believe that “taxation is theft” because a purely voluntary system would leave many public necessities unfunded. The problem now is that the definition of “necessities” has become politicized. But in the age of Kickstarter, we should be able to come up with a better way to do things.

But as conservative Pat Buchanan admits in his column, Republicans “bet the farm.” And they did so because they had a belief system: “The mission of Democrats is to (reduce) inequalities. And as the very rich are also the very few, in a one-man, one-vote democracy the Democratic Party will always have a following. Winston Churchill called this the philosophy of failure and the gospel of envy.  Republicans see themselves as the party of free enterprise, of the private not the public sector. They believe that alleviating the burden of regulation and taxation on business will unleash that sector, growing the economy and producing broader prosperity.”

The fact that this assertion avoids is that a system where the rules are ginned to the benefit of speculators, financiers and real estate developers is no more “free enterprise” than a Chavista system where the producers are looted in order to bribe the lower-class support base of the ruling party.

And insofar as the ruling party is using the heavy hand of government to benefit one class of people over another, ultimately at the expense of the majority, then that IS socialism for the rich. And not even all the rich, just the ones who support the ruling party.

It’s of a piece with the Trump Administration’s similarly unpopular foist, killing net neutrality, which according to conservatives and Devil’s Advocate-libertarians like Reason magazine is only getting rid of a 2015 FCC ruling that we had all managed to live without, blanking out the reasons why the commission had imposed that ruling to begin with. Given that FCC attempts to regulate internet providers prior to 2015 had been denied by the courts, the law ought to be on the side of the free-market Right anyway. That being the case, it is suspicious that the anti-net neutrality push was spearheaded by Trump-appointed FCC chair Ajit Pai (a former Verizon associate), reversing many FCC positions toward net neutrality under the Obama Administration, leading to organized protests and Internet action including major companies that rely on the net neutrality standard like Amazon, Google, and of course Pornhub. Over 1000 investors and startups signed an open letter to Pai against the proposal. Despite protest from the community, and millions of online comments against the policy, Pai and his FCC majority not only ignored the protests, there were reports that someone was stealing the names of real people, including some of the protestors, to make anti-net neutrality statements mirroring the language of conservative centers. If the government, specifically Pai’s majority at the FCC, were so confident that their policy was encouraging consumer freedom and capitalism, they would be more open about the process and less eager to change from a consumer driven standard than a standard favoring large providers.

There are several reasons that a right-winger like myself would favor a review of the previous tax code, FCC standards and other pre-Trump standards of federal governance. The problem, certainly from a “progressive” standpoint and ultimately from a right-wing standpoint, is that current policy is not motivated by libertarian or conservative philosophy so much as shameless deal making to benefit Congressional Republican donors, and even representatives themselves. The clearest evidence for this is how Senator Bob Corker (R.-Tennessee), who had previously posed as a budget hawk in opposition to the tax bill, ultimately went along with all the other Republicans and voted for it for some reason.

And if you want to believe one more lie- that the tax cuts for individuals are only temporary because they had to get the bill done on time and that they’ll (supposedly) be made permanent in future negotiations- then even that is an admission that tax cuts for the donor class take priority over tax cuts for the majority of voters.

This is the exact opposite of the “drain the swamp” populism Trump campaigned on, and the exact opposite of what “the base” said they wanted. The Trump Administration is to Republicans what The Last Jedi was to Luke Skywalker fans. The difference being that The Last Jedi didn’t suck.

Given that much of Republican losses in Virginia and the Alabama special race were a combination of not-Republican anger and Republicans staying home, I have to conclude that even Republicans are starting to notice they’ve been cheated.

That would explain why statisticians like FiveThirtyEight are projecting that the typical ruling-party losses in a midterm cycle have the potential to become a “flood.” That’s why internal Republican National Committee sources have told the Trump Administration that their policies, including the endorsement of Roy Moore in Alabama, would erode the party’s support base among women.

You’ve got a party that is not merely misunderstood or misinterpreted by liberal media, you’ve got a party that is doing its utmost to antagonize the general public, a ruling party whose only legislative accomplishment this year was because they had the most unpopular president of all time in power to sign it into law.

The same president who just this weekend was quoted as telling his staff that Haitians “all have AIDS” and that Nigerian nationals would “never go back to their huts” once they were allowed to stay here on visa.

And just think, Republicans: You’ve got TEN more months, over FORTY more weeks, of the same thing, every week, taking its toll until the Congressional election.

What are the chances that your party will hold both houses of Congress in this atmosphere? And what happens to your precious little angel if they don’t?

And on that note, Republicans:
Have a Merry Christmas, and look forward to 2018.

I know I will.

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