It looks as if we are going to survive year one of our experiment turning our presidency into a stranger-than-fiction reality show, and it’s ending with a bang. After failing to deliver on many of his outlandish campaign promises (Hillary still not behind bars, no Mexican-financed Great Wall being erected on our Southern border, no “beautiful” new health care plan to replace Obamacare) he finally got a big one — the largest tax cut in a generation.
There is a rub, though. Although it certainly is a big tax cut, it isn’t exactly the tax cut he promised the country when he was on the campaign trail in 2016. Back then he said the middle class would be the focus of the tax breaks he would champion and that it would actually be bad for him and his rich friends, but Trump and his fellow 1 percenters will profit far more handsomely from it than us working stiffs.
He also said it wouldn’t add to the deficit, but that isn’t true either. It’s projected to create over a trillion dollars in new debt for the country over the next 10 years. He further claimed that the newly simplified tax code would allow citizens to file their taxes on a post card. That had better be a pretty big post card, because the revisions to the tax code in the final negotiated bill left many complex deductions intact.
As a bonus, the Republicans also quietly back-doored a blow to Obamacare in this tax bill, repealing the individual mandate that required all Americans to get health insurance or pay a penalty. So Trump partially got his promised repeal of Obamacare after all, but there is nothing to “replace” it with. That little maneuver will cause millions of Americans to lose their insurance in the coming years and raise premiums for many others as young, healthy Americans once again leave the marketplace.
Public opinion polls indicate that this tax cut is about as unpopular as Trump himself, but Republicans seem confident that once Americans see bigger paychecks next year as the withholding rates get adjusted and the economy takes off things will turn around for them. Perhaps, but the savings the tax cut will deliver to the average American family will be fairly modest (around $1,000 a year on average) and the plan’s effect on the economy can’t be predicted with any certainty. We’ll have to see what 2018 brings, but Democrats have already started framing this “tax cut for the wealthy” as a huge campaign issue for next year’s congressional elections.
It’s not hard to see why they are so excited about their prospects for a rebound next year. The stereotype for Republicans is that they are concerned mostly with pleasing their rich corporate and individual donors, and after Trump tried to pass himself off as a champion of the little guy he signed off on a tax plan that is going to overwhelmingly benefit himself and his rich buddies. And it’s going to add significantly to our already out-of-control national debt and cause millions of Americans to lose their health insurance to boot. If I were a Democrat running for office next year I’d be pretty excited to get on the campaign trail right now, too.
And to make things even more fun in 2018, we have Steve Bannon running loose out there promising to run far-right candidates in Republican primaries to try and unseat incumbents who haven’t supported Trump faithfully enough. So those Americans who think that what’s really wrong with our government is that Trump doesn’t have enough yes-men in Congress have reason to be excited as well.
It should be quite an interesting year, just as this one was. This quote from H.L. Menken seems especially appropriate as we turn the page on 2017 and look toward the new year: “I confess I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing.”
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at email@example.com.