2 December 2017 — 0320 mdt
American democracy’s black December
By a 51–49 vote last night, the U.S. Senate approved a take from the poor and give to the rich rewrite of our tax laws that will increase the deficit by a trillion dollars and also open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development. In the coming weeks, it will be combined with the tax code rewrite passed by the U.S. House, possibly into something worse, and signed into law by President Trump, a billionaire who knows he isn’t rich enough.
The New York Times calls the Senate’s bill a Historic Tax Heist. It’s that, and more. After they finish rigging the tax code for the rich, Republicans will turn their attention to gutting Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, and a multitude of programs that provide a safety net for the least fortunate among us. Their goal is permanently shrinking government, and shifting the cost of the government that remains to people of modest means.
In a less stable nation, such brazen theft would provoke a revolution, with gated communities razed by mobs with pitchforks and torches, and crooked politicians hanged from lampposts at high noon. We’re not to that point in the United States, at least not yet. But we will become an increasingly sullen, sour, cynical, and selfish people, less willing to help our neighbors, less engaged in community building, less capable of the optimism, good will, and generosity, that serve as a civil society’s foundation. Inside the gates with guards, the rich will thrive. Outside the gates, life will begin devolving into a dystopia that would frighten Hobbes.
Arresting this slide to the bottom requires Democrats’ taking at least one house of Congress next year. That’s possible, but in my judgment, improbable. The Democratic Party remains infested with identity politics, obsessed with race and sex, still beholden to Wall Street, still resistant to progressive economics. Perhaps the party can break free of Hillary’s fetters and reverse its decline, but I wouldn’t bet the ranch on it. In fact, I wouldn’t even bet a rotten fence post.