Welp, Trump got his ‘win’ today. What follows won’t be pretty.
So, at the tail end of a year that has begun to tear this country apart, Donald Trump got that ‘win’ that he was so desperate for – that stinking, steaming froth of manure, snake oil and grand theft known as the ‘Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’ has been signed into law. The ramifications of this ill-considered law will be felt for years, and everyone but the richest one per cent of the country will be hurt by it.
(An aside here – the reason I’ve been hesitant to even attempt a long-form political post lately is that in the Age of Trump, it’s nearly impossible to figure out a place to start. It’s like trying to clean out a cesspool with a teaspoon – there’s so much wrong with the way this country is heading, corruption is at such toxic levels and the media is so totally complicit, it’s almost too discouraging to talk about. But talk we must. So here we are. Onward.)
One of the articles I keep going back to is one written in November of 2017 by Sarah Kendzior. Sarah is an expert on authoritarianism – she’s done a lot of work in countries that are way further down that path than we are – and this description of the real goals of Trump World is both chilling and prescient, for reasons that I will attempt to explain. This passage haunts me:
You can look to the president-elect himself for a vision of what is to come. He has told you his plans all along, though most chose to downplay or deny them. You can even look back to before his candidacy, when in February 2014, he went on Fox News to defend Russia. Why a reality TV host was on Fox News defending Russia is its own story, but here is what he said back in 2014. about his desired outcome for the United States:
“You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have a [chuckles], you know, you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.”
This is what “Make America Great Again” means to Donald Trump. It is how he has operated his businesses, taking advantage of economic disasters like the housing market crash for personal gain. It is why, during a long and painful recession, he made “You’re fired” a national catchphrase, because he understands that sometimes it feels good to know that the person getting fired, for once, is not you.
This passage is relevant because of how the tax bill was written, and even more importantly, when it was signed. Trump signed it this morning. December 22, 2017.
There was talk yesterday that he would wait to sign the bill until January 3, 2018. Here’s why his signing today is important, and signals rough times ahead.
The United States government operates under what’s called ‘budget sequestration.’ Here’s a thumbnail explanation:
Budget sequestration is a procedure in United States law that limits the size of the federal budget. Sequestration involves setting a hard cap on the amount of government spending within broadly defined categories; if Congress enacts annual appropriations legislation that exceeds these caps, an across-the-board spending cut is automatically imposed on these categories, affecting all departments and programs by an equal percentage.
Republicans have insisted for months now that these egregious tax cuts will stimulate growth to the point that the tax cuts will pay for themselves. The only problem with that pitch is, as proven since the time of Reagan, it does not work. Reagan tried it and blew a hole in the deficit – it tripled on his watch. Bush I later called the theory ‘Voodoo Economics.’ And when the theory was put into practice in Kansas by Governor Sam Brownback tried it state-wide in 2012. Kansas is now pretty much broke. Brownback’s ‘experiment’ failed on every point.
And Trump signed a similar ‘experiment’ into law this morning. That he didn’t wait until January means that when budget shortfalls inevitably happen, sequestration rules (otherwise known as ‘pay-go’) will kick in, and those shortfalls will need to be made up to stay within budgetary constraints.
And since the Trump administration won’t touch the military budget (on the contrary, he’s repeatedly vowed to increase military spending by 10% while demanding equivalent budget cuts), those cuts will have to come from elsewhere.
Think Medicare. Medicaid. Social Security. What Republicans love to call ‘entitlements.’ Those are pretty much the only programs left with enough money to make a dent in the $1.4 trillion deficits that are coming.
And if you’re thinking that the GOP wouldn’t go after these programs hammer and tongs, stop now. It’s been a dream of theirs for years to roll back social programs, however unpopular the idea may be.
Remember, this tax bill itself was massively unpopular, and that did not stop them. They do not care.
They know how unpopular it is, and they voted for it anyway. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is now saying privately that Republicans could lose control of the Senate and House in the upcoming mid-terms.
They. Do. Not. Care.
So we’re heading into 2018, and the rich will get richer while the poor get poorer. The nihilists in Congress, headed up by the Nihilist In Chief, have passed a tax law that they know is going to doom them electorally, maybe for years to come. And we should all be very concerned, because we’ll be seeing the last acts of very desperate politicians in the coming months.
They may very well decide to burn the place down on their way out.