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Calamity Now: Senate to Pass Monstrous Tax Cut Bill

Friday, December 01, 2017 By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, speaks with reporters about the irresponsible Republican tax plan on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 30, 2017. (Photo: SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images)Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, speaks with reporters about the irresponsible Republican tax plan on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 30, 2017. (Photo: SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images)
 

"Atticus," said Jem bleakly.
He turned in the doorway. "What, son?"
"How could they do it, how could they?"
"I don't know, but they did it. They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it -- seems that only children weep."

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walked into the chamber a few seconds before noon on Friday and said four words: "We have the votes." It was an announcement all but lost within the maelstrom of former NSA Director Michael Flynn's guilty plea in the ongoing Russia probe, but its eventual import will afflict a vast majority of Americans for generations to come.

The pestilence passing itself off as the Senate GOP's tax bill was brought to the floor at 10:30 am on Thursday for what is called the "vote-a-rama," which amounts to many hours of debate over the bill itself as well as amendments that may be added. Abruptly, an 11th hour report by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation stated yesterday afternoon that the GOP tax plan, as currently constituted, would add a trillion dollars to the deficit.

Senate Republicans knew this already, of course; they just didn't want you to know. Notorious deficit hawk Bob Corker of Tennessee had insisted the bill come with triggers that would raise some taxes to offset any increases in the deficit down the line, should the GOP's rosy economic predictions not come to full bloom.

Senate parliamentarian Sarah MacDonough weighed in at this point and promptly scrambled everyone's eggs: No, Corker's trigger plan was not allowed under Senate rules, and if they kept the triggers in the bill, they would need 60 votes for passage instead of 51. As this thing was already hanging by a thread with only 51 votes needed, a 60-vote threshold would spell certain doom. Faced with the need to satisfy Corker, the Senate voted to throw the legislation back into committee until 11 am today.

As of today's press time, the final vote has not yet taken place, but this fact appears to be incidental. Unless McConnell is lying with his bare face hanging out, passage of this monstrosity is a fait accompli. Collins, Johnson, Flake and all the other so-called doubters have been fobbed off with vague promises about additions to a bill not one of them have actually seen yet. It's over, and all that remains is the wreckage to come.

The Republican "tax plan," now divided between an already-passed House bill and the newly minted Senate legislation, is a shameless nightmare of lies and greed the likes of which have not been seen by any living person on the North American continent. It has no peer in the modern era.

If reconciled and signed by Trump, this legislation will leave tens of millions of people beaten, baffled and bereft. With this bill, they establish a permanent inheritor class whose wealth will be so vast and untouchable that they can buy every election -- local, state and federal -- from here on out. This is not simply a tax bill: It is the last stage of a corporate coup that has been slow-walking its intentions for decades. With this legislation, they're stomping on the gas:

* The overwhelming majority of the tax cuts are given to the wealthy and to corporations. The rest of us get a tax increase a few years from now to pay for this gift to the rich.

* Medicare will be slashed by $250 billion over 10 years, again to pay for the vast sums being sent up the ladder.

* This bill gives more than $500 billion to foreign investors over the next ten years, clearly making America great again in the process. Know any poor or middle-class folks who could use half a trillion dollars right here at home?

* The bill is also an attack on education: College loan deductions are eliminated, and deductions for teachers who have to buy their own school supplies are gone.

* On Thursday, the Koch network warned the Senate not to add an amendment that would help poor families eat, if doing so increased corporate taxes in any way.

* The individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is eliminated, which basically means the ACA itself is eliminated, depriving millions of affordable health insurance. People will die because of this one -- you can count on it.

* Churches have been barred from endorsing candidates and getting directly involved in politics since 1954. The House version of this tax bill would eliminate that restriction, which is already widely ignored by a number of highly political churches and religious organizations. This provision opens a huge campaign finance loophole for the GOP. Can't give any more to a candidate? Give to some right-wing megachurches with audiences in the tens of thousands and have them endorse your candidate. Praise the Lord and pass the plate.

* Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was one of the crew that defected during the ACA repeal tussle earlier this year. She has decided, this time around, that destroying the ACA and gutting Medicare are fine with her because in return, the oil and mining industries get to ravage the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, just like they've always wanted. With friends like these…

The senators who bucked Trump and Majority Leader McConnell during the ACA fight did not line up for a reprise this time around. Murkowski, as stated, was bought off for the price of ANWR. Sen. John McCain of Arizona has signaled he will also vote "Yes," reportedly because the wind was blowing out of the southeast yesterday morning at approximately 5 miles per hour.

There are 52 individual Republican senators who traveled 52 different paths to arrive in that chamber this morning, but all of them came for the same single reason: to pass some version of this bill and deliver a payday to their paymasters. That sorry goal has been accomplished.

They didn't care about the deficit, the country, freedom, you, me or anything else. This was their magnum opus, their purpose in life. Like salmon swimming upstream to spawn, they were prepared to die in the shallows or be eaten by bears to get this done. Perhaps worse, they have spent the last year coddling and protecting Donald Trump so they could get his signature on this disgrace. That's how important this was to them -- and to those who hold their strings.

The network news people are wondering aloud if passage of this bill is now a "hollow victory" given the news of Flynn's guilty plea. Leave it to TV to deliver a perfection of absurdity on a genuinely shattering day. Flynn is a bagman, just another bug on the limousine windshield. The ones who fill the bags will be popping corks all over the world tonight. The worst people have won, again. All the rest of us can do is bleed.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

William Rivers Pitt

William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

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Calamity Now: Senate to Pass Monstrous Tax Cut Bill

Friday, December 01, 2017 By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, speaks with reporters about the irresponsible Republican tax plan on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 30, 2017. (Photo: SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images)Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, speaks with reporters about the irresponsible Republican tax plan on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, November 30, 2017. (Photo: SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images)
 

"Atticus," said Jem bleakly.
He turned in the doorway. "What, son?"
"How could they do it, how could they?"
"I don't know, but they did it. They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it -- seems that only children weep."

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walked into the chamber a few seconds before noon on Friday and said four words: "We have the votes." It was an announcement all but lost within the maelstrom of former NSA Director Michael Flynn's guilty plea in the ongoing Russia probe, but its eventual import will afflict a vast majority of Americans for generations to come.

The pestilence passing itself off as the Senate GOP's tax bill was brought to the floor at 10:30 am on Thursday for what is called the "vote-a-rama," which amounts to many hours of debate over the bill itself as well as amendments that may be added. Abruptly, an 11th hour report by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation stated yesterday afternoon that the GOP tax plan, as currently constituted, would add a trillion dollars to the deficit.

Senate Republicans knew this already, of course; they just didn't want you to know. Notorious deficit hawk Bob Corker of Tennessee had insisted the bill come with triggers that would raise some taxes to offset any increases in the deficit down the line, should the GOP's rosy economic predictions not come to full bloom.

Senate parliamentarian Sarah MacDonough weighed in at this point and promptly scrambled everyone's eggs: No, Corker's trigger plan was not allowed under Senate rules, and if they kept the triggers in the bill, they would need 60 votes for passage instead of 51. As this thing was already hanging by a thread with only 51 votes needed, a 60-vote threshold would spell certain doom. Faced with the need to satisfy Corker, the Senate voted to throw the legislation back into committee until 11 am today.

As of today's press time, the final vote has not yet taken place, but this fact appears to be incidental. Unless McConnell is lying with his bare face hanging out, passage of this monstrosity is a fait accompli. Collins, Johnson, Flake and all the other so-called doubters have been fobbed off with vague promises about additions to a bill not one of them have actually seen yet. It's over, and all that remains is the wreckage to come.

The Republican "tax plan," now divided between an already-passed House bill and the newly minted Senate legislation, is a shameless nightmare of lies and greed the likes of which have not been seen by any living person on the North American continent. It has no peer in the modern era.

If reconciled and signed by Trump, this legislation will leave tens of millions of people beaten, baffled and bereft. With this bill, they establish a permanent inheritor class whose wealth will be so vast and untouchable that they can buy every election -- local, state and federal -- from here on out. This is not simply a tax bill: It is the last stage of a corporate coup that has been slow-walking its intentions for decades. With this legislation, they're stomping on the gas:

* The overwhelming majority of the tax cuts are given to the wealthy and to corporations. The rest of us get a tax increase a few years from now to pay for this gift to the rich.

* Medicare will be slashed by $250 billion over 10 years, again to pay for the vast sums being sent up the ladder.

* This bill gives more than $500 billion to foreign investors over the next ten years, clearly making America great again in the process. Know any poor or middle-class folks who could use half a trillion dollars right here at home?

* The bill is also an attack on education: College loan deductions are eliminated, and deductions for teachers who have to buy their own school supplies are gone.

* On Thursday, the Koch network warned the Senate not to add an amendment that would help poor families eat, if doing so increased corporate taxes in any way.

* The individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is eliminated, which basically means the ACA itself is eliminated, depriving millions of affordable health insurance. People will die because of this one -- you can count on it.

* Churches have been barred from endorsing candidates and getting directly involved in politics since 1954. The House version of this tax bill would eliminate that restriction, which is already widely ignored by a number of highly political churches and religious organizations. This provision opens a huge campaign finance loophole for the GOP. Can't give any more to a candidate? Give to some right-wing megachurches with audiences in the tens of thousands and have them endorse your candidate. Praise the Lord and pass the plate.

* Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was one of the crew that defected during the ACA repeal tussle earlier this year. She has decided, this time around, that destroying the ACA and gutting Medicare are fine with her because in return, the oil and mining industries get to ravage the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, just like they've always wanted. With friends like these…

The senators who bucked Trump and Majority Leader McConnell during the ACA fight did not line up for a reprise this time around. Murkowski, as stated, was bought off for the price of ANWR. Sen. John McCain of Arizona has signaled he will also vote "Yes," reportedly because the wind was blowing out of the southeast yesterday morning at approximately 5 miles per hour.

There are 52 individual Republican senators who traveled 52 different paths to arrive in that chamber this morning, but all of them came for the same single reason: to pass some version of this bill and deliver a payday to their paymasters. That sorry goal has been accomplished.

They didn't care about the deficit, the country, freedom, you, me or anything else. This was their magnum opus, their purpose in life. Like salmon swimming upstream to spawn, they were prepared to die in the shallows or be eaten by bears to get this done. Perhaps worse, they have spent the last year coddling and protecting Donald Trump so they could get his signature on this disgrace. That's how important this was to them -- and to those who hold their strings.

The network news people are wondering aloud if passage of this bill is now a "hollow victory" given the news of Flynn's guilty plea. Leave it to TV to deliver a perfection of absurdity on a genuinely shattering day. Flynn is a bagman, just another bug on the limousine windshield. The ones who fill the bags will be popping corks all over the world tonight. The worst people have won, again. All the rest of us can do is bleed.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

William Rivers Pitt

William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.