JAMES CALABRESI ’20
Late Friday night, a copy of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was given to each of the 100 United States Senators mere hours before its vote. Democratic Senators, rushing to discover what the bill would do to the economy, found exactly what one would expect of these Reagan-acolytes. A huge tax break for corporations and wealthy individuals, with no concern for deficit spending. Using the moment of high publicity (though much of the backlash came the following day thanks to the GOP planning their vote for 2 am). Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) tweeted that think-tank lobbyists had given her a copy before the regular senate version was passed out- yet another sign to many that the Trump administration’s laws are being written by the D.C. “insider swamp.” The bill passed without a single Democrat in favor and with Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) defecting from the Republican caucus. The Chair of Outreach for Senate Democrats Bernie Sanders (I-VT) opined to his almost seven million followers on Twitter that “the American people are catching on. While you may get away with this act of looting tonight, history is not on your side.” Needless to say, Republicans could not care less about what even the most liberal Senators have to say about their bill; they just kept promises to their base and, more importantly, to their donors.
One of the most viral moments concerning the tax bill was the fact that large portions of it were literally illegible thanks to scribbled notes in cursive hand-writing, over which senators and pundits alike cranked out dissenting opinions and videos to be viewed hundreds of thousands of times over the next 48 hours. For Americans in the know over the implications this bill might have, emotions were at an all-time high considering the history of tax policy, the state of the country, and in wringing of hands over how to prevent further entitlement cuts.
Polling on the safety net programs, however, is overwhelmingly popular, with expansion of current Medicare eligibility to all Americans pulling in favorable ratings as high as 46% among Republicans, according to a YouGov Poll from April. A few days prior, a Gallop Poll showed 34% of Americans supporting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, with 44% in opposition. In other media news, political pundits from NPR to the New York Times chose to characterize the passage of the bill as a win, instead of revealing the staggering statistic it entails. The bill will likely increase the deficit by at least 1 trillion dollars over the next ten years. The repeal of the Individual Mandate looks likely to increase the number of uninsured Americans to around 40 million, similar to what the ‘skinny repeal’ bill earlier this year would have done.
For once, however, Democratic opinion was near-unanimous. From Jon Tester (D-MT) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), to Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the Democratic caucus held strong. Supposedly, not one senator considered voting for the bill, and normal on-the-fencers like Manchin instead voiced eulogies over the loss of the bipartisan era. Leader of the Senate Democrats, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) also offered his chagrin over abandonment of aisle-crossing cooperation: “There is sincere desire on this side of the aisle to work with the GOP.” Seen as weak when-it-counts, Schumer’s words enraged leftists who tweeted comparisons of the Democrat to UK Labour Leader and strident socialist Jeremy Corbyn.
For Republicans, messaging quickly turned became the target of virality and in Chuck Grassley’s (R-IO) case, a bizarre statement concerning the repeal of the estate tax in the bill- “I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.” For one, Senator Grassley obviously chooses to forget that it is the wealthiest Americans that save the most from the repeal of the estate tax, while lower / middle class families barely gain at all from it. And, considering the amount that upper-class men have been benefitting from a culture of rape apology, his comments are insensitive; even more so because for the p o o r e s t American w o m e n , what national outlet will hear ones story, much less provide the public support to help one raise money to fight for justice. Now is a moment for stark reflection. This is the country we live in.