by Charles Blow, NYT
[Charles M. Blow has been a New York Times Op-Ed columnist since 2008. His column appears on Monday and Thursday. Mr. Blow joined The New York Times in 1994 as a graphics editor and quickly became the paper’s graphics director, a position he held for nine years. Mr. Blow is the author of “Fire Shut Up in My Bones,” released in September 2014. He graduated magna cum laude from Grambling State University in Louisiana, where he received a B.A. in mass communications. He lives in Brooklyn and has three children.]
With their tax bill, Donald Trump and the Republicans are raiding the Treasury in plain sight, throwing crumbs to the masses as the millionaires and billionaires make off with the cake.
America should be aghast not only at the looting but also at the brazenness of its execution.
It seems that for as long as I can remember, Republicans have been wringing their hands about deficits. And yet in this budget, they willingly, willfully exploded the deficit, not for public uplift or rebuilding America’s infrastructure but rather on the spurious argument that giving truckloads of money back to businesses will spark their benevolence.
According to the government’s own nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the tax bill will lead to “an increase in the deficit of $1,455 billion over the next 10 years.” But be sure, when this bill leads to these predicted deficits, Republicans will return to their sidelined deficit rhetoric armed with a sickle, aiming the blade at the social safety net, exacerbating the egregious imbalance of the tax bill’s original sins. That’s the strategy: Appease the rich on the front end; punish the poor on the back. Feed the weak to the strong.
The callousness of this calculation is hidden in the arguments over estimates and evidence, but it is not lost. Most Americans see through this charade. According to a CNN/SSRS poll released this week, most Americans disapprove of the tax bill. Furthermore, most believe the bill will benefit the wealthy, in general, and Trump and his family, in particular.
Make no mistake: No matter how folks try to rationalize this bill, it has nothing to do with a desire to help the middle class or the poor. This is a cash offering to the gods of the Republican donor class. This is a bill meant to benefit Republicans’ benefactors. This is a quid pro quo and the paying of a ransom.
Trump promised to drain the swamp. That was another lie among many. He and the Republicans are in fact feeding us to the gators.
Last month at a rally in Missouri, Trump said of the tax bill, “This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me.” He continued: “This is not good for me. Me, it’s not so — I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me, but that’s O.K. You know, I keep hearing Schumer: ‘This is for the wealthy.’ Well, if it is, my friends don’t know about it.”
That, too, was a lie.
In September, The New York Times estimated that “President Trump could cut his tax bills by more than $1.1 billion, including saving tens of millions of dollars in a single year, under his proposed tax changes.” That was before the bill was passed and reconciled, when the deal got even sweeter for Trump.
As The International Business Times reported this week: “The reconciled tax bill includes a new 20 percent deduction for so-called pass-through entities, business structures such as L.L.C.s, L.P.s and S corporations that don’t pay corporate taxes, but instead ‘pass through’ income to partners who pay individual tax rates on that money. The Senate version of the bill included safeguards that would only allow businesses to take advantage of the new break if they paid out significant wages to employees. But the new provision, which wasn’t included in either version of the bill passed by the House and Senate, and was only added during the reconciliation process, gives owners of income-producing real estate holdings a way around that safeguard, effectively creating a new tax break for large landlords and real estate moguls.”
This specifically lines the pockets of the ecosystem of corruption that Trump calls a family. It also lines the pockets of people like Senator Bob Corker, who mysteriously “coincidentally” switched his vote from a no to a yes on the bill after the language was added.
America must make an honest appraisal: Donald Trump is a plutocrat masquerading as a populist. He is a pirate on a mission to plunder. Trump is milking the American presidency for personal gain. If he can give the impression of compassion on his mission to cash out, all the better for him, but the general good, the health of the nation and the plight of the plebeians is not now nor has it ever been his focus.
His ego is too big for egalitarianism, and his heart too small for it. So he sticks closely to what he knows, the brand of Trump: promoting it, positioning it, defending it and enriching it.
Republicans in Congress rushed the bill through for other reasons: to combat the fact of their own legislative incompetence, to satisfy their donors and to honor their long-held belief that the rich are America’s true governing force.
The middle class and the poor were never at the heart of this heartless bill. They are simply a veneer behind which a crime is occurring: the great American tax heist.