Our Reps Are (Still) Idiots
OK, so they finally passed it. The Senate tax reform bill, however imperfect, will return money to taxpayers, spur business, and increase jobs. Significantly, the bill repeals the Obamacare mandate and provides other benefits, such as opening portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling. These are major accomplishments. Yet nearly half of our representatives in the Senate voted no, and what with Sen. Corker's obstruction, Republicans came close to stumbling once again.
The great historian Robert Conquest once pointed out that the Soviet system fell not just because of flawed ideology or Western opposition, but because its leaders were "stupid." They murdered, imprisoned, or exiled most of their greatest scientists; they ran the economy into the ground with inefficient state-run industries; they engaged in corruption at every level of society. No wonder they failed.
Much the same can be said for our representatives in Congress. Why would the people's representatives, all of them, not rush to pass a major reform that would bring such good to ordinary Americans? Obviously, because they are idiots.
In the course of the debate, one senator after another revealed himself as such. The dunce hat passed from John McCain to Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Ron Johnson before ending up on Bob Corker's head. There's also every Democratic member of the Senate, but they've voted that way for decades. It would appear that these esteemed representatives don't have the sense of the common people, who can tell at a glance that less tax is better than more.
Along with opposing tax reform, the entire Congress has once again failed to consider spending cuts of any sort. In a federal budget totaling $3.54 trillion in 2016, Congress can't find a dime that needs cutting. Even a trained monkey could open the books and finger thousands of programs that deserve the axe, starting with Job Corps (saving $19 billion over ten years) and Titles II, VI, and VIII of the Higher Education Act (saving $25 billion over ten years). Congress lacks the sense of a monkey, trained or otherwise.
Of course, one would expect the left to stand together in opposition to any reduction in the size or funding of government. Cutting taxes for the middle class is, they say, a giveaway to the rich. It is bad for the economy. It will add to the national debt. "A class war of the super-rich against the merely affluent," the Washington Post calls it. The tax cut plan would "destroy Medicare and Medicaid," according to the Huffington Post. Or as the N.Y. Times put it, with its usual classiness, "The Senate Is Rushing to Pass Its Tax Bill Because It Stinks."
What about Bob Corker? He excused himself on grounds that he is a "dinosaur" who fears future deficits. If that's the case, what's he been doing for the past ten years as the federal deficit more than doubled? Or was his real motive testiness over Trump's snubbing him for secretary of state? Is that a good reason to sabotage the entire country?
Corker's action was bad, but it was not uncharacteristic for a U.S. senator. That title used to carry with it immense respect. Now it just suggests a person of a high degree of pique and vindictiveness. A person who allows his thinking to be ruled by pique and vindictiveness is, by definition, an idiot.
Ironically, the word "idiot" is derived from the Greek word "idiōtēs," referring to a private citizen, not a public official. A private person was assumed to lack the skill to participate in public life. But it is now almost exclusively those participating in public life who lack the requisite skill to do so, and it is the private citizen who possesses it. That's confirmed by the Fox News poll showing that only 16% don't find it important to pass tax reform this year – while 86% disapprove of the job Congress is doing. Just so.
Among our modern-day idiōtēs, there is a special class who combine a lack of skill with seemingly unlimited quantities of duplicity. Several Democrats in the Senate come to mind. The liberal lions of the past were bad enough – now we have progressive punks like Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren. How can one with a straight face maintain that trillions in corporate and individual tax cuts for the middle class will harm the American people? But that is what the Democrats have maintained from the start. You'd think they would get tired of so much pretense. But then Al Franken can get up and assert that "it won't happen again" and think that acting sheepish will make it right.
Another mark of the idiot is a lack of imagination. Those who oppose tax reform lack the imagination of supply-siders like Art Laffer, who see that tax cuts always spur economic growth. Laffer is correct in saying a vote against the tax bill is "a vote against America." The left is glued to its foundational idea that the welfare state is the solution, not the problem. Leftists don't have the imagination to conceive of a future in which they or their children can participate in a thriving economy, earn a good income, and sever their dependence on government. In other words, they are idiōtēs.
Likewise, plenty of reps don't understand how a booming economy is essential to the future of America, and especially to its senior citizens. It is generally understood, by nearly all except our representatives in Congress, that economic growth is the only way that Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid can even begin to remain solvent. If our reps understood this, presumably they would take action.
There's also the not insignificant matter of the future of American security. Our nation remains secure because of the strength of our military, but that strength has been eroded by our inability or unwillingness to pay for it. A strong economy produces the wealth to ensure a strong military.
In sum, the current tax reform bill, while it doesn't go far enough, benefits nearly all Americans, including those not receiving an immediate tax cut (those in the highest brackets and those not paying taxes to begin with). Just one group will really be hurt. That would be the Washington elite, whose dream of complete control of the economy would be stymied.
The political elite and their allies in the media have feverishly lobbied against tax reform because cutting taxes slashes their power over ordinary Americans. Edward McCaffery's CNN opinion piece is typical. Entitled "Trump's Massive Tax Cut – for the Rich," the article focuses on aspects of tax reform that might benefit the rich, such as elimination of the "death tax," while it dismisses widespread tax cuts for the middle class and the benefits of economic growth for the population as a whole.
It was inevitable that the left would rush to label tax reform, no matter how modest, as a giveaway for the rich. Clearly, the House and Senate bills are not that. It was heartening to see Sen. Orrin Hatch finally explode when badgered by Sherrod Brown over "working for the rich." Sen. Hatch was actually quite restrained: the Left's line on taxes, he said, was "bullcrap." Actually, it goes way beyond bullcrap.
The fact that class warfare is "getting old," as Sen. Hatch put it, does not mean that the left won't continue to use the line. That line, along with race and gender, will be the basis of leftists' 2018 congressional campaigns.
As for idiots on the right, they have less of an excuse. One expects Chuck Schumer to be Chuck Schumer, but what about Bob Corker? How could a rational man who purports to faithfully represent constituents, 70% of whom voted for President Trump, oppose a measure as important as the Senate tax reform bill?
As I said, our reps are idiots.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).