Thursday, December 7, 2017
When seized by a fit of faux fatalism several years ago, I cranked out some T-shirts proclaiming, “Nothing Can Be Done.” My daughter, perhaps more sincere in her despair, has just debuted her new line of “Existence Is Futile” fashions. Sadly, neither of these entrepreneurial endeavors will likely allow us to benefit from the Republicans’ new feed-the-rich tax plan oozing through Congress.
Like a lot of people, the new GOP tax bill has rendered me speechless with outrage. I could write postcards of protest to Senator Dianne Feinstein or Congressmember Salud Carbajal, but what’s the point? They already agree with me. Yes, it’s objectively obscene that people making $40,000-$50,000 a year will soon find themselves collectively paying $5.3 billion a year in increased taxes (and reduced government services), while those making more than $1 million a year will collectively gain $5.8 billion in their personal pocketbooks. But obscenity clearly lies in the eye of the beholder, especially since the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people too and campaign donations are free speech and not to be abridged.
In this context, I’ve decided to strike back by targeting my sputtering silence on Republican Justin Fareed, the perpetual Congressional candidate hailing from Montecito. Henceforth Justin and I will not be speaking. I will not be taking his calls, emails, or texts. Nor will I be quoting anything he, his press releases, or any surrogates have to say on any subject. It won’t change a damn thing, but I’ll feel better, however marginally, about it. For Justin, understandably, this will all come as a shock. After all, he and I haven’t exchanged a syllable in more than a year.
It should be acknowledged my motivations are suspect. Justin, as some may recall, banned Independent reporters and photographers from any of his election-night parties. He refused multiple requests for interviews and threatened to sue when we reported that wealthy nursing-home operators with checkered legal records had bundled large numbers of “donations” to Fareed from multiple individuals living outside the district who’d never even heard of the former high school gridiron standout.
But here’s the real deal: Throughout Justin’s last campaign, he ceaselessly denounced the legislative process by which Democrats rammed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through Congress. Reporters covering the race suffered an epidemic of repetitive stress syndrome as Fareed repeated the old line attributed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “Just pass the bill, and we’ll find out what’s in it.” Or words to that effect. Although taken somewhat out of context, Pelosi did say it. It was a party-line vote; not a single Republican voted for the Affordable Care Act.
Who cares, and why bring that up now?
First, there’s the Republican tax bill just passed by the Senate. It got out of committee without a single hearing. Not one. The votes were wrangled into place just hours before the text of the bill was even released, which, incidentally, lobbyists got long before anyone else. It was one of those dead-of-night votes to chill one’s soul. Even by conservative reckonings, the tax bill will create a trillion-dollar deficit. That’s serious money. Once upon a time, Republicans cared about such things. Ultimately those deficits are going to have to be paid for. The Republicans have two plans. Down the road, Republican leaders have now admitted they’ll be bringing out the sharp knives to cut such programs as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. When that happens, you won’t be worrying about your granny anymore; you’ll be worrying about yourself and that van you’ll be sleeping in.
The tax bill, a masterpiece of cynicism and contempt, offers tax relief written in disappearing ink for the so-called little people. After 10 years, many of the individual tax breaks written into the bill expire. But the bulk of the tax relief goes to corporations and businesses. Those breaks are written in stone; they do not dissolve over time. The unbearable burden that those tax breaks place on the U.S. Treasury will not be magically healed by any voodoo variant of trickle-down economics, best described as “feeding the horses to feed the sparrows.”
By contrast, the Democrats and President Barack Obama made serious, sustained, relentless efforts to reach out to Republicans to pass the ACA, most notably with Charles Grassley of Iowa. The ACA, however imperfect, was subjected to 79 days’ worth of committee hearings and multiple amendments. It was only after the Koch brothers declared a fatwa on the ACA and targeted for immediate political annihilation any Republican who participated legislatively that the Democrats were forced to carry on, unilaterally, to get the bill passed. It may be irrelevant, but I find it interesting that the family fortune these liberty-loving Koch brothers inherited was first made installing the gasoline extraction industrial infrastructure needed by Stalin and then Hitler.
In this context, I’m wondering why Justin Fareed is so silent about the parliamentarian outrages inflicted by his party to pass the tax bill when he couldn’t shut up about the procedural violence, however trumped up and exaggerated, used to pass the ACA. Curious minds want to know. But since we’re not talking, we might not find out.
One suggestion: It turns out the tax bill is causing terminal heartburn for Republican members of Congress from California, torn between party loyalty and political survival. In California, taxpayers have long claimed sizable tax deductions based on home mortgage payments and state and local taxes paid. Under the Republican tax reform, these deductions will be dramatically reduced. Should this pass, that’s real money out of real middle-class pockets. In other words, real pain. If Justin were to display a little common sense and denounce the tax cuts with one-tenth the fervor he trashed the Affordable Care Act, I might agree to talk to him. And if he held a press conference at the courthouse, I might even cover it. I’d be the reporter wearing the “Nothing Can Be Done” T-shirt.