Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas, America

If we are lucky, this will be our first and last Christmas under Trump.  He has done about all he can do to divide this holiday season by rekindling the faux "War on Christmas," and declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel, knowing full well the protests he would inspire, not least of all a universal rebuke by the United Nations.   No matter, the Trump band plays on.

He and his rowdy right-wing friends are doing their best to turn this holiday season into a family feud.  It will be pretty hard not to avoid Trump at the Christmas table, as he has put himself front and center this holiday season, gloating over his first major "legislative victory."  If that weren't enough, he managed to get Congress to go along with his "Drill, Baby, Drill" policy in the Arctic, formally approving his earlier executive order to open up the Arctic national wildlife refuge to the oil companies.  It was a busy December.

I guess it doesn't matter how unpopular these legislative victories are.  Congressional Republicans were determined to pay back their political benefactors, freezing Democrats out of the legislative process on all votes.  Even the so-called conscientious Republicans who voted against the "skinny repeal" earlier this year, went along with the tax bill that cut the mandates for the Affordable Care Act, in an attempt to balance the massive tax cuts that will make any future health care legislature difficult to finance.

Republicans probably know the gig is up and are looking to plunder the budget for whatever they can get while they are still in power.  This certainly appeared to be the case with Bob Corker, an adamant opponent of the tax bill until provisions were added that favored his personal interests -- the so-called "Corker Kickback."  It now seems "Liddle Bob" is back in Trump's good graces with Ivanka doing her best to defend his reversal.

It's not like they needed his vote, but apparently Susan Collins felt she had been duped and there were some worries the GOP would not get the votes it needed to pass the revised tax bill after it returned from the House.

Lost in all this merriment is that Trump originally asked for $6 trillion in tax cuts.  His financial team of Mnuchin and Mulvaney whittled it down to $4.5 trillion, using some phony GDP projections to claim the unprecedented tax cuts would pay for itself.  In the end, the Trump White House only got $1.5 trillion, which isn't even as much as the Bush tax cuts of 2002-2009, which came to about $1.8 trillion.  This has to hurt a little because Trump is not one to settle for second best.

At the end of the year, all the Republicans were back on the same page.  It seems the big upset in Alabama cowed "mavericks" like McCain and Murkowski into submission as they realized their seats are now in jeopardy.  If you can't win a special election in the Deep South, no matter how bad your candidate, your goose is cooked.  Republicans now try desperately to salvage what remains of a horrible legislative year by speeding bills through Congress before Doug Jones comes into office early next year, as their margin of error just became one less.

Not surprising that Trump rekindles the "War on Christmas," but this has always been a right-wing gimmick meant to placate its most conservative audience.  It does little to disguise the fact most Americans feel they have been fleeced by this tax bill.  It has received almost universal condemnation.  It's only saving grace is that much of it won't take effect until after the midterms, but it is doubtful that will save their hides in what promises to be a very rowdy election cycle.  After all, Republicans similarly used the Affordable Care Act bill to tar and feather the Democrats in the 2010 midterms, when they took back the House, although the health care act didn't take effect until four years later.

What goes around comes around, and once again the Republicans have fallen victim of their own dirty tactics.  They have proven very good at undermining legislation, but not so good at proposing any meaningful legislation of their own.  One would like to think the American public has wised up a little, given what we saw in Alabama, which turned out to be the best Christmas gift of all.  If 2017 taught us anything it is that we can never take anything for granted.

This holiday season will hopefully be a time to ponder the future.  If we want good governance, we have to elect leaders capable of governing, not reality show presidents and weak-kneed legislators who prostrate themselves before their corporate sponsors.  The GOP has proven time and time again it is incapable of leading.  It thrives only as an opposition party.  We can only hope we have seen the last of the "Trump Effect."

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