Apr. 27, 2018

TITLE: The fuse is lit

Money in the US Treasury -- both existing and borrowed -- has been burning a hole in Republicans' pockets for decades. Now, with the ridiculous Dec. 2017 "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act" -- er, make that "Tax Cuts for the Wealthy" -- in their rear-view mirrors, regular Americans are catching on that not only is their own part of the pie more crumbs than a slice, but that the wealthy have skipped out on the check and even swiped the cheddar cheese on their way out the door.

Over at Newsweek, Neil H. Buchanan writes, "Despite their most fervent wishes and a brief blip in the polls, the new tax law is still not popular... People are not being bought off with a few extra dollars in take-home pay... Republicans certainly face an uphill climb. Although there was initially a flurry of news reports about businesses tying the tax bill to announcements of bonuses and wage increases that were almost certainly going to happen in any case, enough time has passed that we are now able to see that the law is doing exactly what liberals said it would do: make the rich richer and the rest of us less secure."

Despite a few initial high-profile announcements of bonuses and promises to invest in the US by Apple, AT&T, Comcast, Walmart, and a few others, U.S. corporations by-and-large are not making the medium- to long-term investments the tax cuts were touted as incentivizing.

American Prospect co-editor Robert Kutter notes, "Each claim in the Republican propaganda is phony. The growth stimulated by the bill will not enable the cuts to pay for themselves. The changes in the tax code are not increasing investment -- mainly, they are promoting more corporate stock buybacks that artificially pump up share values and further enrich the rich."

Melvyn Krauss, a Hoover Institution senior fellow at Stanford University, wrote in USA Today, "The way the Trump Republicans chose to finance the tax cut is certain to lead to substantial political pushback. It energizes Democrats and their donors, turns Republicans in blue states against their own party, and alienates fiscal federalists who believe in different strokes for different folks as far as state spending and taxation is concerned.

"The Republicans have missed a golden opportunity for permanent corporate tax reform that most fair-minded economists agree could do the United States a lot of good," Krauss adds. "Previous Republican tax cuts under Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were also tilted to the top but made sure to include some real benefits for regular people. But this bill was so heavily skewed to the wealthy that most people won’t see any benefits at all in their paychecks."

And right on cue, as a result of their tax cuts ballooning of the federal deficit by a whopping $1.8 trillion over ten years, Republicans are now doing their second favorite thing: harping that massive cuts must be made in vital social programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. What's next, poor houses? Privatized, of course.

"Despite a good deal of messaging by corporate allies of Trump claiming that worker raises and bonuses are the fruit of the tax cuts," Kuttner notes, "the small number of pay increases are a pittance compared with the tax savings for companies. In a sublime case of poetic justice, the so-called Tax Cut and Jobs Act is backfiring on the Republicans big time. Most voters are unimpressed, and Republicans themselves are ceasing to emphasize it in their campaign material."

Indeed. Democrats are correctly sensing that the unpopularity of the tax cuts can be used against Republicans in the 2018 midterm and 2020 presidential elections. Just look at the special election for the Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District this past March in which Dem Conor Lamb pulled off a stunning upset over Republican Rick Saccone. Prior to election day, Republicans, who had been touting the tax cuts in Saccone ads, wisely pulled them when they realized the spots were doing them more harm than good.

In their eagerness to reward their wealthy donors and a cynical belief that Americans are just too dumb to figure it out, despite what they see in black in white on their own pay stubs, Republicans have lit the fuse on a fiscal bomb that will harm not only their own chances in upcoming elections, but the nation as a whole for decades to come.

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Multiple award-winning author Charles Carr has written thousands of columns and articles for many of So Cal's best-known publications. Carr is also a noted playwright with his next show in pre-production at San Diego's Balboa Park. More info and tickets at www.northcountyplayers.org.