It appears that the Republican-controlled Congress is on the threshold of finally passing a significant piece of legislation this year. President Trump is eager to make a huge deal out this so-called accomplishment, surrounded by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and a gaggle of widely grinning Republicans.
There are around 239 GOP representatives in the U.S. House and 52 Republican senators in the upper chamber, plus thousands of staff members and more committees than I care to count. Legislation and the legislative process are tightly controlled by the Republican leadership. And there were some very important issues to resolve this year.
Let’s see how many were completed in 2017: Opioid crisis relief funds legislated? No! Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorized? Nope! Undocumented “Dreamers” status resolved? Nein! Obamacare insurance subsidies passed? Nyet! Government funded and debt limit raised for fiscal year 2018? Not yet! Hurricane disaster relief fully funded? Maybe next year!
Well, how the heck did Republicans spend their time? Trying to deprive millions of Americans of their health insurance? Absolutely! Pouring more money into our bloated, wasteful defense system? Of course! Working as fast as possible on a budget-busting, unpopular and unneeded tax cut for corporations and the rich? Oh YES!
Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah), who worked so diligently to craft a debt-funded tax bill, said that CHIP was held up because “we don’t have money anymore.” Can you believe that?
But Speaker Ryan knows where to get the money for the military and tax cuts. He wants to loot Medicare and Medicaid funding and reduce Social Security benefits. Ryan readily admits these goals in legislation he has proposed. To him it’s the most obvious thing to do and he discounts the human consequences. He’s like Willie Sutton, the famous bank thief. When asked why he robs banks Willie casually said, “That’s where the money is.”
Well, Ryan is right; so-called entitlement programs also have a lot of money to steal. And most Republicans are convinced it’s being wasted on the poor. They believe that if someone needs help with food, health care or housing or if they don’t have a job. it’s because they won’t work and want to live off the government.
Sen. Hatch stated this mindset perfectly after complaining that we don’t have the money for CHIP funding: He said, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves – won’t lift a finger – and expect the federal government to do everything.”
Both Trump and his Republican enablers want to tackle welfare reform next year. They claim their efforts will just involve “transitioning” people into the workforce. What that means is they’ll cut entitlements in an attempt to force the “lazy” unemployed to get a job. Problem is, many people receiving food stamps and Medicaid insurance already have a job; they just don’t make enough money to escape the poverty level. And many others are children, elderly or disabled.
But like the Obamacare repeal and replace, when the public is apprised of how draconian the GOP welfare reform legislation is and how it might affect them, they will oppose these changes as if their life depended on it – and it will fail too. So not to worry; Democrats will sweep many of these right-wing radicals out of office before they can accomplish their worst objectives. Most voters aren’t as naive and ignorant as Republicans think they are.
Even so, we are facing fiscal challenges for the next year or two and I’ve been giving a lot of thought to tax cuts and what motivates those who seek them. During this ruminating something popped into my head that I hadn’t thought about in years – a quasi-religion called the “cargo cult.”
As I remember, the cargo cult evolved when a World War II twin-engine supply plane crashed on a remote Pacific island populated by a primitive tribe. It was filled with amazing goods the villagers had never seen, clothing, food and wondrous metal tools. They thought this largess must have come from a powerful deity and they developed a religion focused on encouraging the god to reward them again with more “cargo.” This blessing never repeated, of course, but the sect flourished despite this failure. I can’t be sure but believers probably ostracized doubters.
Now, I certainly don’t want to insult primitive peoples by comparing them to Republicans – although the two groups share some characteristics — but the GOP seems to have a cargo cult mentality on tax cuts. Once upon a time — they can’t tell us exactly when – the GOP gave tax cuts to the wealthy and created an economic boom that flowed down to the middleclass and greatly benefited all Americans. This “cut taxes for the wealthy and grow the economy” fairy tale — let’s call it the “tax cut cult” — became engraved on the political alter where Republicans worship. And despite prodigious facts that dispute the cult’s validity their faith has been unshakeable.
So, even after this latest offering to the tax cut gods fails to produce results or causes a recession, the tax cut cult will regain prominence again someday. Americans aren’t stupid, but they do have short memories.