Bret Stephens and Frank Bruni of The New York Times both recently warned Democrats not to be too pushy in opposing the Republican tax scam because it’s going to put some chump change temporarily in the pockets of the great-unwashed masses and therefore people are going to like it.
From their elite perch on the opinion page of the “paper of record,” both Stephens and Bruni seek to throw a wet blanket on any Democratic “resistance” going into the 2018 elections because, after all, caution and passionless opposition to Republican policies have always worked out so well politically for the Democrats, right?
Instead of pointing to the wholesale class warfare the Republicans have waged with this re-writing of the nation’s tax code these two hopelessly bourgeois public intellectuals see a big problem with Democrats behaving for a change as if they have blood flowing through their veins.
The Republicans in Congress, along with Donald Trump (who in one year has established himself as the weirdest, most dangerous and unfit president in United States history) have re-written our nation’s tax code to serve a tiny class of corporate Robber Barons at a time of already Gilded Age levels of wealth and income inequality.
These corporate titans would’ve been overjoyed if the Congress dropped their tax rate from 35 percent to 30 percent, but the Republican Congress under Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan gave them an even wetter and deeper tongue bath by lowering it to 21 percent ― a full 14-point drop! They even made the tax cuts that Bret Stephens and Frank Bruni believe are so wonderful for working people temporary and set to expire, while the 21 percent corporate rate is permanent.
Worse, this huge rip-off from the federal treasury will pile an additional $1.4 trillion onto the national debt, which the Republicans are already using as an excuse for deep cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security (which they benignly call “entitlement reform”).
Worse still, the Republicans used a fascistic parliamentary tactic called “reconciliation” to ram through by a simple majority in the U.S. Senate this massive overhaul of the nation’s tax code without any hearings or analyses or input from “stakeholders” (which in this case is all of us).
And even worse still, the Republicans and their mouthpieces in the expanding right-wing media universe lied and lied and lied about the true nature of the tax cuts (calling them “middle class” directed). They also lied about the economic growth these tax cuts would deliver, and even talked up the absolutely insane notion that corporations would pass on their tax windfall to raise the wages of their workers!
Despite all of the chicanery, malfeasance, and ill will that went into this horrific tax bill, the passionless and detached Bret Stephens and Frank Bruni tell their New York Times readers that it’s the Democrats who need to be cautious. In 2018, they say, Democrats shouldn’t come out too strong against this tax swindle designed to pay off big Republican donors lest they alienate the little folks out there who might like the lower tax rates.
Stephens and Bruni come to this conclusion even though states like New York and other “blue states” are going to have to raise taxes to compensate for the partisan effects of the new Republican tax law; and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are going to use the new code’s increase in the national debt as an excuse to slash programs that millions of working families need and benefit from, a “tax” by another name.
This kind of commentary is always spewed forth whenever it appears that the Democratic Party might at long last grow a spine and rediscover its inner Franklin D. Roosevelt. These are the same kinds of hackneyed arguments we’ve heard for the past 30 years where public intellectuals cut from the same cloth as Stephens and Bruni advise the Democrats always to “move to the center” and don’t be “too radical,” even while the Republicans move that “center” into John Birch Society territory.
Even as we witness the Republican Party in power swinging the nation’s politics way out to the right-wing fringe there aren’t many big time public intellectuals cautioning them to “move to the center.” And in Trump’s America where the fuck is the “center?”
With the rise of Trump the Republican Party’s apparatchiks are “deconstructing” entire government agencies, such as what Scott Pruitt is doing at the Environmental Protection Agency and Mick Mulvaney at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Party spokespeople like Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway lie to the public on an hourly basis, and the party’s propaganda outlets like Fox News, The Daily Caller, and Breitbart have become State “news” services as rigid ideologically as Pravda ever was in the old Soviet Union.
Their fascism shows a little more each day. The recent calls for a “purge” of the FBI and the Justice Department we’ve heard from right-wing media sources and even Republican members of Congress show how far they’ll go. They’d love to transform the federal law enforcement agencies into their own ideologically pure Gestapo.
They also tell Big Lies.
The Republicans told Big Lies to sell the new tax law. They said it’s going to increase economic growth astronomically and that we will all benefit. Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin told Congress that his department was working on a thorough analysis of the economic effects of the tax law. That was a Big Lie. (He should be charged with Contempt of Congress.) To sell the repeal of Net Neutrality they used a Big Lie too. Ajit Pai and the other Republican ISP shills on the Federal Communications Commission say the Internet won’t change one bit with the repeal of Net Neutrality. That’s a Big Lie. We’re supposed to believe that the tens of millions of dollars that Comcast, Verizon, and other ISPs spent lobbying over the past decade for scrapping Net Neutrality was aimed at keeping the Internet running the same way as always? And the Republicans have used perhaps the biggest lie of them all to purge references to the science of climate change from federal agencies.
Big Lies work.
″. . . in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” — Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X
And commentators like Bret Stephens and Frank Bruni see the problem as being that the Democrats might come on too strong?
Trump himself is an authoritarian (and a white supremacist); he’s a wannabe dictator who’d erase in a heartbeat the two-century experiment in American “democracy” if he could get away with it.
He’s also a crook.
He won’t release his tax returns because he has been involved in so many shady deals over the course of his career his criminality would leap from the pages. Remember the $25 million settlement he paid out because of the fraud that was “Trump University”? That alone should’ve been enough to bar him from ever becoming president.
These guys running the Trump show aren’t “conservatives.” And the sooner we understand this fact the better we’ll be able to rise to the challenge they pose for the U.S. Constitution and American “democracy.” Amidst this onslaught, any public intellectual advising the Democrats to back off, like Bret Stephens and Frank Bruni, are missing the bigger picture.
One year ago today, when Obama was still president, I opened a blog that for some reason got a lot of attention from right-wing websites with this paragraph:
First off, let me be clear: The Republican Party bears responsibility for Donald Trump becoming the 45th President of the United States. The Republican Party nominated him. The party leaders enabled him. There were many complex social, political, and economic forces that produced the Trump catastrophe, but no amount of disassembling and deflecting will change the fact that the Republican Party made this happen.
We need to remember this because the political party that brought Trump to power, now a year later, is poised to do far more damage to the United States than Al Qaeda or ISIS or just about any other foreign adversary ever could.