The “New York Times” had a headline that read: “Roy Moore’s Alabama Victory Sets Off Talk of a G.O.P. Insurrection.” Here’s a headline from the “Washington Post”: “After Alabama, GOP anti-establishment wing declares all-out war in 2018.” Let me reference the words of a wise philosopher: Please.
Republican incumbents have been challenged and beaten by more extreme right-wingers over and over in the past few years. Last week’s defeat of Alabama Sen. Luther Strange, who never actually won an election to the Senate seat he held, and who was appointed in what looked very much like a corrupt bargain (a headline at Breitbart called it that, but I won’t link to that site), is no more evidence of a Republican ‘civil war’ than the defeat of multi-term incumbents like Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah or Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, not to mention the victories of crazies like, among others, Sharron Angle, Todd Akin, or the wicked witch of the mid-Atlantic, Christine O’Donnell, all of whom won open seat primaries against establishment figures. Trump himself pulled off a similar type of anti-establishment victory. This is not new. More importantly, it is kabuki theater of the highest order.
Roy Moore, Donald Trump, and all the Republican culture warriors out there—along with the supposed ‘establishment’ types who issue the mildest of protests against their divisiveness every once in a while—march together in lock-step on the issue that is the foundation upon which the Republican Party has rested for many decades now. It isn’t religious fundamentalism (the fact that twice-divorced, non-church going Trump, of all people, claims evangelical whites as his strongest supporters should make that clear enough), and it isn’t even racism or white supremacy.
Waving the cross and blowing racist dog whistles—hell, Trump is just using regular whistles at this point—are the tools by which the GOP gets enough support from working- and middle-class white voters to put them in office. But when they get there, the one thing Republicans from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush to Donald Trump want to do most of all is enact a rich man’s tax cut, along with other economic policies that favor those at the top.
The first two men succeeded, and the result has been to widen inequality in this country by a significant degree over the past 37 years. Trump has, for now, failed in his effort to get rid of Obamacare—which was an important push against inequality that subsidizes or directly provides health coverage to those otherwise unable to afford it by taxing those at the top. But now it’s on to Trump’s tax plan, where the shifting of money up the economic ladder is even more naked.
What will his plan do for the rich? If we ask Trump himself, we get one answer: “It’s not good for me, believe me.” But if we ask for that quaint notion known in some quarters as the truth, we get a very different answer.
As for the rest of the Trump crew, we got mealy-mouthed non-answers this week from top economic advisor Gary Cohn when he was asked whether middle class families might see their taxes go up under this plan: “I can’t guarantee anything.” In fact, the Trump plan will do what all Republican tax plans do: make the rich richer and screw everyone else.
Trump announced his rich man’s tax cut plan in Indiana, and praised that state for having cut taxes—mostly on high incomes, although Trump didn’t mention that part—under its previous governor, now-Vice President Mike Pence. In Indiana, the record is far more mixed than Trump claimed, as the state had to enact a major increase on gas taxes and vehicle registrations—a far more regressive tax than the Pence cuts it was undoing, just after Pence left office. Indiana basically shifted a chunk of its tax burden from the wealthy to anyone who drives. Furthermore, Indiana has fallen behind the rest of the country when it comes to income growth since enacting these tax cuts, even as it has done well on the number of jobs created.
But the Trump tax plan—in particular the measures that muck around with incomes on so-called ‘pass-through’ businesses—bears far more resemblance to the Sam Brownback tax experience that bankrupted the state of Kansas. The Kansas plan was such a disaster that the Republican-majority state legislature voted to get rid of it by a large enough margin to overcome Gov. Brownback’s veto. Meanwhile, states like California that—under Democratic leadership—raised taxes on the rich and increased investments in its people boomed.
Now Trump wants to take the Kansas boondoggle national. And, in case you’re wondering, it’s no coincidence that he attacked mostly African-American football players and called them “sons of b*tches” right before he did so. Football isn’t the only game that involves misdirection.
So Steve Bannon and the Mercer family are out there declaring war on the Republican establishment. That war is at least as old as Barry Goldwater. You know when I’ll believe there’s a real battle going on in the Republican Party? When enough Republicans stand up against the rich man’s tax cut to defeat it.