LA Progressive

Shameful GOP Tax Plan Taxes Reality

Okay, we’re off to the races on what the White House and GOP Congressional leadership agree is their “do or die” effort to look vaguely credible, having struck out so far on repealing Obamacare and pretty much everything else Trump campaigned on (infrastructure, trade, border wall, etc.).

From a religious point of view, the fate of the tax plan rests on two related reality tests.

First, and most urgently, will Democrats and the liberal establishment throw everything they’ve got against a plan as purulent as this one is, making maximum use of social media and offering a passionate justice-centered critique rather than the usual nerdy inside-the-Beltway talking points?

Will Democrats and the liberal establishment throw everything they’ve got against a plan as purulent as this one is, making maximum use of social media and offering a passionate justice-centered critique rather than the usual nerdy inside-the-Beltway talking points?

Second, will everyday people—including the many millions who claim a religious sensibility—be capable of responding to such a justice-centered critique?

To review briefly what we know about the House tax plan that was just unveiled (following weeks of anguished secret writhings among various GOP elements):

There will be lots of fraudulent stuff in the rhetoric of plan boosters from Trump on down, but the biggest single lie will be the claim that the corporate tax cuts are also, in effect, middle-class cuts because the benefits will flow down to workers.

Let’s examine this claim, because it’s essential to be able to cut through this smokescreen:

Back to the two key reality tests I mentioned at the top.

I frankly don’t know whether the Democrats and their allies are willing to call out a perfect example of class warfare waged by the overclass against the rest of us. In my view, far too many Democrats are entirely comfortable with neoliberal economics: they fully accept the thesis that a corporate-friendly regime of deregulation and low taxes is good for everyone. Far too many Dems depend on Wall Street and the 1% to fund their campaigns. Far too many are perfectly happy to campaign as culture liberals while remaining complacent, even welcoming, in respect to the rule of wealth.

As to whether everyday people would even respond to a passionate justice-centered critique of the appalling gluttony epitomized in the GOP plan: I believe they could and would respond to a full-on attack on a plan that so glaringly exacerbates already-soaring inequality. For what other reason would Bernie Sanders be the nation’s most popular politician… repeatedly? And despite what Democratic moderates (and their pundits) would have you believe, the U.S. is not a “center-right” nation; if anything, we are a “center-left” nation, especially when it comes to opposing tax cuts for the wealthy.  

Faith leaders who say they care about the most vulnerable have a real opportunity here in relation to their own messaging and advocacy. As I’ve written before in these pages, tax plans are moral documents—as much, or more so, than budgets.

Faith leaders presumably take the long view. The long view here is that if this tax plan—with its unprecedented permanent cuts—were to go through, we won’t have to wait even ten years to see acute new suffering among people with disabilities, the elderly, vulnerable children, etc. Because as sure as the sun rises in the east, GOP leaders will use the new deficits their own plan creates to demand huge cuts in the social safety net: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and everything else.

Oh, and did I mention Fun Fact #3: the GOP plan, for all the pro-worker verbiage attached to it, actually raises taxes for the lowest-income workers? Hey, somebody’s got to pay.

Peter Laarman
Religion Dispatches