The starry-eyed euphoria ~ “momentous” and “landmark” are among the superlatives used ~ over the passage of the US tax bill has simultaneously been tempered with the thought that it was bulldozed after a nightlong legislative session that was attended by only a handful of Republicans… and no Democrats. The inhospitable timing, let alone the content, is now in itself a primary point of criticism, provoking the charge of legislative stealth. Donald Trump has achieved his objective in what must rank as his singular victory in his first year in office, not to ignore the rumblings within the Republicans and the stout opposition of the Democrats. It will still be open to question whether the victory in the wee hours of Saturday will overshadow the serial fiascos on other fronts, most particularly in the realm of foreign policy. The passage of the bill reaffirms the President’s unpalatable economic agenda.
Ergo, it is a sectional victory at best and an overwhelming setback for the people at worst. Chiefly, it is designed to enrich the USA’s affluent segment at the expense of “everybody else”. Indeed, the legislation seeks to institutionalise what Oxford’s economic historian, Tapan Rai Chaudhuri, had once called “affluent subsistence”. The Republican epithet of a “momentous triumph” has verily been neutralised with the overwhelming baring of the angst; in the popular perception the bill has been binned as “looting of the public purse by the corporates and the wealthy”. That condemnation, ironically enough, might hasten the signing of the bill into law.
The bill is expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, a debt that will be paid by the poor and middle class in future tax increases and spending cuts on medicare, social security and other government programmes. And up to 13 million people stand to lose their health insurance because the bill effects a major change to the Affordable Care Act. Aside from the benefits for the few and losses for the many, the tax reform has trashed the certitudes of public policy.
Trashed too is the concept of public spending, let alone the Benthamite doctrine of the “greatest good of the greatest number”. And yet the new tax regime provides for a huge and permanent tax-cut to corporations, notably Apple, General Electric and Goldman Sachs. These enterprises will thus be able to save billions of dollars.
There is considerable consternation over the fact that the bill was rewritten till the last minute, and literally so. The haste with which the changes were effected ~ pen and paper instead of computers and printouts in the 21st century ~ has turned out to be a major point of criticism, and on a matter of procedure. Astonishing has been the desperate race against time. Trump’s America has accorded the short shrift to Americans, and in the fountainhead of democracy.