From Al Bundy to Trumpty-Dumpty: The spiritual part of the war on Christmas was lost in the days Trump was failing as a casino owner

I started feeling under the weather at around Noon the day before Christmas, so I spent much of the late afternoon and early evening drifting in and out of sleep while the television blared Christmas-themed episodes of “Married with Children,” the 1990s dystopic situation comedy about a lower middle class family of selfish, self-seeking, uneducated, ignorant individuals who think only of material possessions.

All the Christmas episodes revolved around the father of the house, Al Bundy, trying to get his hands on money to buy Christmas presents, and each time coming up short. His various part-time jobs and schemes all backfire, or he fails to get to the bank in time or he gets drunk and buys drinks for the house at the bar where he ends up after a stint as a Santa, with all the other poor blokes playing Santa in Chicago. That one has a bizarre ending, as Al uses his one positive trait—his athleticism which combines strength, agility and speed—to take possession of items from the bar, all labeled “Ray,” and give them as presents to his family. Best gift: A gold necklace with the name Ray on the gold medallion to Peggy, the wife Al loves to hate and hates to make love to.

Along the way, the Bundys, and most other characters, display vile and venial behavior and say many cruel things, all of which is hilariously funny, because they form a harmless exaggeration of the real world. In none of the episodes do any of the characters consider anything about Christmas other than the tradition of buying, giving and receiving presents. Virtually all the action not in the Bundys’ seedy home occurs in the marketplace: Al’s shoe store, next-door neighbor Marcy’s bank, the department store and other mall fixtures. No spirituality. No finding the true spirit of Christmas. No affirmation of traditional values. Even the parody—no, travesty—of “It’s a Beautiful Life” in a misogynistic, misanthropic vision in which his wife and two children are all better off in every way if the miserable Al had not been born. We laugh because we recognize in the extreme meanness and venality of the Bundys a parallel to our own lives and the people we know.

In Al Bundy’s world, love, friendship and every other emotion can only be found in money and material possessions, the values of American consumerism.

Also in the world of Donald Trump. All his talk about a war on Christmas involves the public market of commerce and has no spiritual element. It’s as if anything having to do with the religious aspects of Christmas—the story and its meaning, going to a mass or other church service, volunteering to feed the homeless, even caroling—has been consumed in a miasma of commercial values.

From Bill O’Reilly in 2012 through Donald Trump this year, the war on Christmas has always reduced to the secular marketplace. Do clerks and cashiers say “Merry Christmas” and thereby manifest their religiosity or do they utter the blasphemous “Seasons Greetings” and risk eternal damnation? Do the decorations have images of the Christ child and the legend “Merry Christmas” or do they rip all Christian doctrine to shreds by interspersing “Happy Hanukkah” and menorahs among “Seasons Greetings” placards and sundry Santa Clauses, sleighs, decorated trees and colorful wrapped-and-bowed packages? Instead of letting the marketplace operate without constraints, like conservatives are supposed to, those who believe that Christians must fight back in some religious war propose to regulate the market by stressing their one holiday. The authoritarian plea is meant to intimidate other cultures by stressing the primacy of one religion as a means to establish it as a de facto, and (they hope) someday de jure, national faith. This intimidation is a kind of softening up of all minorities for other assertions of Christian dominance such as refusing to bake wedding cakes for gay weddings, making abortion as hard as possible if not illegal, buying into a global war on Islam, and tampering with science and history text books.

Many pundits have already detailed the many reasons why conceiving of a war on Christmas as a Trojan horse for a war on secular values is wrong. Briefly, we are a secular society founded by fairly unreligious rich folk. Furthermore, Christmas iconography already dominates most celebration, even if has ceased to have or never had religious significance. Moreover, making potential customers feel uncomfortable is never good marketing. As a Jewish atheist, I won’t shop in any store, online or brick-and-mortar, once someone has said “Merry Christmas” to me. I imagine many other Jews, Muslims, Hindi and Buddhists have similar feelings. The idea of secularizing Christmas in the marketplace makes good business sense, and it doesn‘t disturb the private celebrations of Christians. Let’s also consider that making “Merry Christmas” the standard greeting debases its religious connotation, because it turns the phrase into a secular greeting that everyone gives everyone.

The rightwing media has taken up the battle cry against the war on Christmas for five years, but most mainstream media has recognized it is a false issue, a fake war.

So who else but a charlatan to declare victory in a fake war? It makes perfect sense that Donald Trump would claim that he had won the war on Christmas by re-instilling Christian values in the marketplace, from which secularists (read: liberal, feminist, gay, immigrant and minority) had vanquished it. At his rallies over the past few weeks, The Donald has been patting himself on the back for bringing Christmas back. Now, a nonprofit started by former Trump aides is going to run a Christmas day commercial in which a series of everyday Americans thank Trump for what he has done since his administration took over. Among the many faces of casually dressed people in various locations, mostly white but a token number of people of color —all manifesting traits associated with working class people—is a beautiful young white girl who says, “Thank you for letting us say “Merry Christmas” again.” Someone should tell that little girl that it was never against the law to say “Merry Christmas”; it’s merely thought in polite company to be poor manners to assume someone you don’t know is Christian. Unless, that is, if she’s an actress playing the role of grateful little girl.

Of course, they don’t really care about Christmas as a religious holiday, not Trump, not Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, not Meghan Kelley (who insisted both that Santa Claus was a real historical figure and that he had to be white), nor any of the other rightwing shills who said secular forces were destroying Christmas by their continuance of the decades-long American practice of marketplace recognition of other religions. They have all proved themselves many time to be committed to the values of conspicuous consumption and consumerism. But as elitists and authoritarians, they like the idea of giving the ignorant something they can be angry at other than the greed and acquisitiveness of their corporate masters, and in Trump’s case, fellow rich folk. All of them supported the mean-spirited tax overhaul, which Trump is publically calling a “Christmas gift” to the American people, knowing full well that it only the gift to the wealthy He has admitted as much to his rich friends at Mar-a-Lago.

Here in New York, we see very little evidence of more people saying “Merry Christmas” and fewer people saying “Seasons Greetings,” no stripping signs of Hanukkah from decorations, no increased religiosity in the sentiments people express in public interactions. Beggars in the subways make sure to include everyone in their solicitations. I did see one group of young men, mostly Hispanic, in seminary garb roaming together in the East Village saying “Merry Christmas” to everyone and being greeted with typical New Yorker’s scorn by the people with whom they tried to engage. I have also seen collections of Orthodox Jews publicly celebrating their version of Hanukkah in the streets to the same reaction.

But it may be different in the hinterlands.

In any case, let Trump have his victory, a hollow one because the more that people focus their celebration of Christmas in the marketplace, the more the true spirit of Christmas suffers. That was the lesson of “Married with Children” two decades ago, and nothing has changed since then. The marketplace long ago Bundyized the celebration of Christmas.

New tax bill tries something that’s already failed many times: lowering taxes on wealthy to spur economic growth. But it’s typical of GOP to propose programs that have proven not to work

Much of science and engineering involves trial and error: You try something and it doesn’t work, or doesn’t work perfectly, so you modify it or try something else. You learn from experience and apply what you learn to future activities. Trial and error is a necessary part of the scientific method.

Perhaps it’s because learning from experience is part of the scientific method, and thus part of science, that the Republicans refuse to do it.

It’s clear that the GOP didn’t look at real-world experience in the passage of the tax overhaul which over time will transfer more than a trillion dollars of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the very wealthiest Americans. They say the new tax system will supercharge the economy, which will result in more tax revenues than before the cuts. But past efforts to cut taxes on the wealthy have never led to increased prosperity, nor to increased tax revenues, whereas raising taxes on the wealthy always does. The Reagan tax cuts didn’t lead to prosperity, which came only when taxes were raised again under Bush I and Bill Clinton. The Bush II tax cut led to the 2008 recession by giving rich folk additional money to create a real estate bubble which, upon bursting, sent the economy into a tailspin. Only after the tax increases under Obama did the economy start to purr again.

And what about Kansas? The Sam Brownback-led experiment in cutting-and-gutting has led to an economic disaster. The Kansas example is particularly on point: Under Brownback, the legislature entirely eliminated taxes on what are known as pass-through businesses, which account for about half of all business profits. Brownback made the same glowing predictions that Trumpty-Dumpty and Paul Ryan are now making for lowering the income tax on pass-throughs and the other benefits of the tax bill that only the rich will enjoy. But instead of an economic boom, Kansas has seen seven years of little if any economic growth and massive budget deficits. The tax base shriveled, forcing lawmakers to cut spending on public schools, colleges, Medicaid and other programs. Courts had to order the state to spend more on public schools. This year, after years of suffering, the Kansas legislature finally reversed the tax cuts, overriding Brownback’s veto in a refreshing if desperate bipartisan effort.

Anyone who follows the scientific method would conclude from the wealth of experience that cutting taxes on the wealthy is a bad idea. But Trump and the GOP live in a weird faith-based universe in which wishful thinking can somehow defeat reality.

Unfortunately, tax policy is not the only area in which the GOP—and sometimes many Democrats—ignore experience:

War on drugs

The premise of the war on drugs was to limit supply by punishing everyone involved in the illegal drug trade—suppliers, dealers and possessors, especially those whose skin was not white. Launched by the Nixon administration and pursued for decades by Nixon’s successors, but especially under Republican presidents, the war on drugs proved to be an abject failure that ended up filling our prisons with people who committed low level, victimless crimes. So what does the Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis propose? Program after program to limit supply and little to work on reducing demand. While not as Draconian in its proposals to punish users as the original war on drugs was—after all, opioid addicts are primarily white and heavily centered in white rural areas—the commission proposes only two programs to limit demand out of a total of 56 recommendations. Most of the rest of the commission’s report details various ways to limit supply. Trump and Sessions would add more criminalization and jail time to the mix.


The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and it was a quagmire that drained the Soviet treasury and sowed discontent on the home front. Ten years later, the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, tail between their legs, unable to achieve any of their objectives, but leaving behind a wide and bloody trail of death and destruction. Many believe that the experience in Afghanistan contributed to the break-up of the Soviet Union. Did the Soviet disaster—and those of the Russians and British in the 19th century—stop the Bush II Administration from invading in 2001 after Afghanistan refused to relinquish Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks? Not a chance. After more than 10 years of futile fighting that cost the lives of more than 2,000 American soldiers and about 100,000 Afghanis, drained the U.S. and accomplished nothing, Obama began to draw down the American troop totals in Afghanistan. Lesson learned—that is until the Republicans took control of the White House again and the Trump Administration announced its intention to ratchet up the U.S. military presence in the war-torn country—more drone attacks and more troops.

 Private prisons

Private prisons have led to widespread abuse of prisoners and greater violence behind bars and they often cost more than public prisons. President Obama’s response to the pile of evidence against private prisons was to announce that the federal government would gradually end their use. Yet there is so much experience that shows that private prisons don’t work that of course the GOP under Trump are supporting them. One of the first things Attorney General Jeff Sessions did was to scrap the Obama order to phase out the federal government’s use of private prisons.


Encouraged by big business and electric power generators, those Republicans who admit that we have to address climate change propose cap-and-trade as the way to lower carbon emissions. In this case, they’re joined by many Democrats. With cap-and-trade, a market is created for trading what are called “pollution credits,” which essentially means that companies that pollute buy the right to do so from companies that don’t pollute or pollute less. The original cap-and-trade scheme to address acid rain lowered emissions of SO2 by 42% in the United States. Europe, by contrast, used regulations to fight acid rain and was able to remove 71% of all emissions. Yet the U.S. (under Clinton but Republican support) insisted that the 1997 Kyoto Protocol focus on cap-and-trade as the main way to reduce carbon emissions. I really shouldn’t blame the GOP for their preoccupation with this failed concept, since the rest of the world, including Democrats, have also been enamored of cap-and-trade. For example, despite the fact that every single cap-and-trade program in the U.S. and Europe has failed to lower emissions, China recently announced it is establishing what it says will be the largest cap-and-trade market in the world.

In all of these cases, the reason the GOP prefers to follow failed policies instead of learning from experience is that big contributors benefit from continuing to pursue the fallacies, even if most people suffer. Sometimes it’s defense contractors. Sometimes it’s slick GOP cronies who want to make a quick buck through privatization. Sometimes it’s large industry and electric power generators who seek to exploit a badly formed and loophole-filled policy to avoid their responsibility to clean up their industrial processes. But whenever the GOP ignores the lessons of experience, someone makes a lot of money.

When contemplating the inability for the GOP to apply the lessons of the past to solve today’s challenges, I can’t help but think of the refrain of the old Pete Seeger song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” It keeps playing in my mind: “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”

The answer for the GOP and Trump seems to be “Never.”

Final tax bill not as mean-spirited as earlier versions, but still gives virtually all benefits to rich folk, while screwing everyone else. And it will still lead to another great recession or worse

In the days before Congress passed the so-called tax overhaul, better termed the “Reverse Robin Hood Plan,” some televisions news programs showed images of the protests, but for the most part the news media accepted as a fait accompli the passage and signing of one of the greatest transfers of wealth up the socioeconomic ladder in world history. Usually I would complain that the mainstream media is once again manifesting its bias towards covering conservative protests, ideas, intellectuals, primaries and candidates while ignoring the left, but in this case, it’s hard to blame the media. After all, if Republicans in Congress were ignoring all the experts saying the bill is a disaster for the economy and all the polls which show anywhere from 59% to 70% of all Americans opposed, why would they be moved by pickets and chants outside their door?

The final tax package is not as mean-spirited as the original House and Senate versions, but it’s still a bad bill that reflects the underlying greedy philosophy that has animated the Republican Party for years: government by the rich, of the rich and for the rich. True enough, gone are some of the more obnoxious aspects of the bill like making graduate students pay taxes on free tuition and ending the deduction for adoption programs and teachers’ classroom expenses. The cap (doubled!) on assets not subject to the estate tax remains.


The tax overhaul still gives an enormous permanent tax reduction to the wealthy, while giving smaller temporary tax breaks to everyone else.

It still favors investors over workers and business owners over employees.

It still gives a major shaft to taxpayers in the high-tax states that pay more to the federal government than they receive already and still have enough money to provide more social programs and healthcare to their citizens.

It still increases the deficit by more than a trillion dollars over the next ten years, and that’s using optimistic estimates of future economic growth and revenue collection.

It still requires the federal government to cut non-military spending, and the Republicans still intend to use the new deficits it creates to justify cutting social welfare and insurance programs even more.

And it still is a recipe for economic disaster. It will increase both income and wealth equality. The gutting of the individual mandate will throw 13 million people off healthcare insurance rolls and jack up costs 10% for everyone else. Because it makes less money available to government, it will hamstring federal and local efforts to improve our infrastructure, conduct essential research and development in basic science, educate children, address climate change and tend to the needs of the elderly and disadvantaged. It will still take money out of active circulation because rich folk already have enough money to buy what they want and will therefore put their money into dead assets like stocks that aren’t initial public offerings, bitcoins, artwork and other collectibles, bloating the value of these assets until some asset group forms a bubble.

A lot of the Republicans are brainwashed dumb asses or unthinking greed machines, but many must know of the economic disaster that the tax bill will likely engender. At the very least, they understand that their money grab for the wealthy will end up pissing off a lot of people who will lose their job or their healthcare insurance, immediately or eventually pay more in taxes, find college, healthcare and housing costs going up, drive on pothole-infested roads and drink dirty water.

The hope of Trump and the Republicans must be that those who will temporarily receive a fatter pay check starting January will be delighted and that the asset bubble won’t burst into another full-blown recession until after the 2018 election. The optimists among them may be predicting the crash won’t come until after the 2020 election, enabling the Electoral College again to give a majority of its votes to a dangerously unqualified, ignorant buffoon and giving the Republicans the right to gerrymander voting districts into victories for another 10 years. But the crash will come, and when it does, Democrats will sweep back into office and have to deal with all the messes the Republicans have created. They will have to reinstitute regulations, restock the talent of many departments, restart oversight programs, revise language on websites, return the voting rolls to full democracy, reverse short-sighted decisions based on nonsense that went against the best interests of our citizens, renew relationships with many other countries and rededicate the country to the ideals of an open, secular, democratic society. And yes, the Dems will have to raise taxes on the wealthy, but just as the tax increases after the Reagan and Bush II tax giveaways to rich folk, probably not to the current level. Thus the trend since the 1960’s of society expecting less of the wealthy and more of everyone else will continue.

By the time the Democrats get back in control (or reason returns to the Republican Party), a lot of damage will have been done to millions of people in the United States and in the countries where we have military operations, our economy, the environment and global stability. Our reputation in the world will be in tatters and its possible our allies and adversaries may have moved on without us in trade, peace, arms, development and environmental agreements.

Also by that time, however, the current stock of Republican congressional representatives and senators will have secured cozy and lucrative sinecures with lobbyists, law firms, businesses or rightwing think tanks. Of course, the possibility exists that large numbers of white people will continue to channel their rage and frustration at their personal hard times into racial tribalism and thus continue to vote for right-wing candidates who speak in code and pander to their worst instincts. As the Alabama special Senate election proved, the call of racism is still strong.

But Doug Jones’s upset of Roy Moore also proved the power of getting out the vote, which nowadays depends to a large extend on organized efforts to overcome the many barriers that Republican-controlled states have erected to voting since 2010. The Alabama turnout, while only 32%, was considered heavy for a special election, which is shameful but also points out how many potential voters are out there. Surveys almost always demonstrate that Americans are much more liberal on economic, foreign policy and social issues than our politicians are. We like to blame big money for the current gang of deplorables running Congress and the White House, but big money does not elect people. It only funds their campaigns. Voters elect, and for far too long, too few of them have made their voices known. The result is the abomination of a tax bill which will end up crippling the U.S. economy.

Those doing a victory dance at the election of Doug Jones to U.S. Senate from Alabama should remember that 650,000 voted for a child molester

While anyone who believes in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIPS, food stamps, public schools, cheap public universities, abortion rights and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants should rejoice in the victory of Democrat Doug Jones over the truly deplorable Roy Moore for the U.S. Senator from Alabama, we should only do so with caution.

Trump and the Republicans are still in charge. The GOP is still upsetting decades of Congressional protocols pushing through a tax bill that represents the largest transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy in U.S. history, a tax bill opposed by more than 70% of all Americans. The current administration is still overturning regulations that address climate change and protect Americans on the job site and in the marketplace. The appointment of a young generation of ultra-right, pro-corporate judges continues.

Moreover, democracy in America is still threatened, not just by the Republicans in Congress and the White House, but by the voters themselves. Only 32% of registered voters participated in the Alabama special election, a total that all the news media is labelling as high or heavy. A majority of voters stayed home and that’s a good turnout? No wonder Congress so often thwarts the will of the people and acts against the best interests of most Americans to favor a wealthy few. The people often don’t speak loudly enough.

More dangerous to American democracy than the lack of voter participation is the fact that more than 650,000 voted for a child molester. Even if every one of the Alabama voters who stayed home had voted against Moore on the principle that a child molester should not represent a state in the U.S. Senate, that doesn’t mitigate the fact that more than 15% of the total electorate either didn’t care or took the word of a man over a large number of very credible women and supporting witnesses. Either these voters are morally bankrupt or irredeemably misogynist. The low turnout magnifies the power of this 15%, just as it did in the 2016 Republican primary races in which Donald Trump never exceeded 25% of the total of eligible Republican voters. When voters stay home, a motivated minority can turn the country in an ugly direction—in this case, almost electing a child molester.

Which brings us to Senator Al Franken, a good guy and leading liberal light. On the scale of sexual offenses that men can perpetrate against women, Franken’s is much less offensive than Roy Moore’s. But still not acceptable. And they occurred multiple times. He made at least eight women feel uncomfortable with his frat boy antics. Why didn’t he learn from his mistakes?

I’m fairly certain that someone said something to him about the inappropriateness of his behavior at least once over the years. Back in 1973 when I was teaching my first university-level French course at the University of Washington—Introduction to French Literature—I was prone to making salacious puns and sexual innuendos in my lectures. I was just a 22-year-old doofus trying to be funny and clever—I was and am an incorrigible punster with a vivid imagination and a love of jokes about sex. After about three weeks, one of my female students took me out for a coffee and told me the jokes made the women feel uncomfortable. I was as embarrassed as I have ever been, completely humiliated. I stopped the sexual joking immediately. I never had another complaint. I am still grateful that my student sent me in the right direction so early in my career and adulthood.

That was 45 frigging years ago!!! Don’t you think that along the way some outspoken woman would have done the same favor for Franken, who as a liberal must have hung out with a number of sensitive, sensible and assertive women? Keep in mind, too, that some of Franken’s antics took place in public “on the job,” typically working for large organizations. Every large organization has had a sexual harassment policy in effect and given training to supervisors on identifying and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace since about the mid-1990s. Many seem routinely to ignore the policy especially as it applies to powerful men, but that doesn’t let the liberal feminist Franken off the hook.

It therefore shocks me to see so many comments on Facebook asking Franken to remain a Senator, petitions pleading he reconsider and nasty notes to New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, leader of those demanding Franken resign. These well-meaning liberals and progressives risk giving up their ideals for political expediency—exactly what we accuse the other side of doing. If being accused of molesting a 14-year-old, assaulting a 16-year-old and pestering a bunch of young girls when he was in his thirties disqualifies Roy Moore from elected office, how can we exempt Al Franken for his overly aggressive and sexual touching and feeling? The case of Trump is even more apt. If we disqualify Trump for his 18 instances of harassment, we must qualify Franken for his eight. When it comes to the discomfort it could cause a woman or the assertion of a prerogative of power over a woman, I can’t see much difference between touching a woman’s breast and slipping fingers underneath her panties. Both equally heinous.

Franken has to go. Otherwise there is no moral ground on which to accuse Trump, Moore and other Republicans. Otherwise, we send a message that in certain cases it is alright to harass women, and even perpetrate a mild, good-natured, we’re all-just-having-a-good-time sexual assault.

What is the relationship between domestic & foreign policy in the current administration? Is it an incoherent stew or is there a grand strategy?

That the incendiary announcement that the United States was moving its embassy to Jerusalem comes in the wake of the Senate’s passage of the Trump GOP tax giveaway to the wealthy begs the question: Does any relationship exist between domestic and foreign policy in the Trump years? Can we connect the current administration’s domestic policy to shift wealth to the wealthiest and permanently entrench the wealthiest as a ruling elite to our bellicose, go-it-alone, anti-Muslim foreign policy? Is there a grand design? Or is it just an incoherent stew of bad ideas?

To a great degree, domestic and foreign policy always work hand and glove in the United States. For the most part, both have always served the interests of the ultra-wealthy and a coterie of large companies in industries long used to mixing in politics such as energy, metals extraction, telecommunications and defense.

The current foreign policy abandons attempts to solve world problems collectively and replaces it with an angry isolationism that tries to bully or bluster to get its way. It appears to represent a radical turn from the approach of at least the last three administrations, but if you scratch the surface…la plus sa change, as the French say. We seem always to have a ton of troops and advisors in a number of foreign countries. We still employ a large number of private companies to perform military functions. We still seem to do the bidding of Saudi Arabia and therefore demonize Iran. Diplomacy may be gone. We may be courting authoritarians and snubbing allies. But we’re still flexing our military muscle, still fighting several senseless wars. We still employ a large number of private companies to perform military functions. We still seem to do the bidding of Saudi Arabia and therefore demonize Iran. Diplomacy may be gone. We may be courting authoritarians and snubbing allies. But we’re still flexing our military muscle, still fighting several senseless wars.

But what does our foreign policy—both what continues and what is new—have to do with domestic issues?

As it turns out, our continued military misadventures that transcend regimes have four profound connections to domestic affairs, all of which have both political and policy implications.

First and most obvious, the defense industry plays a large role in our politics. No candidate from either party has strayed very far from espousing the central tenets of our foreign policy since the end of World War II, which of course call for tremendous annual expenditures for the military. Our sainted President Obama, for example, was a leading proponent of developing a new generation of nuclear weapons and raised no objections to robot weapons that decide on their kill without human intervention. The acquiescence to or support of the defense industries by all leading politicians results in a greater likelihood that we will use the weapons.

For the most part, politicians from both parties also buy into the long-time U.S. policy of being the arms master to the world, selling more military weaponry to other countries than the rest of the nations of the world combined. Often these sales, by private military corporations, take place only because of U.S. loans to the purchasing government.Thus our federal budget is stretched and our politics distorted by the influence of military contractors.

Besides draining our treasury of funds that could be used to help people, both in the United States and throughout the world, our large military expenditures and our long-time policy of being the arms master of the world contribute to the overall “culture of guns” that exists in America. We are armed to the teeth and have armed the world to the teeth. The political and policy dynamics of selling guns abroad and guns in the United States reinforce each other: America, armed to the teeth, land of freedom and defender of freedom.

In other regions of the world, our arms mongering causes disruptions. In the United States, it leads to a slaughter unseen in any other nation of the world. Then again, no other nation in the world has so many guns in active circulation. Every study shows that the more guns a society has, the more people will die and be injured by guns. Our elected officials seem to accept the casualties in the United States in the name of a single freedom proclaimed as inviolable through a gross misinterpretation of an amendment to the constitution ratified more than 200 years ago, long before the invention of automatic weapons and bump stocks.

Our foreign policy also helps to justify our domestic police state apparatus, and has done so since the end of World War II when we decided we were better off with the Soviet Union as an enemy than as a friend. When we don’t have an enemy, we manufacture one, or expand a minor threat such as ISIS into a major one. Government uses international affairs as the rationale and justification for all manner of intrusion into our lives, such as eavesdropping on the phone calls of American citizens, executing secret searches, tracking library card use, seizures of private property, classifying millions of documents as top secret and cracking down on undocumented immigrants.

Finally, foreign affairs serves as a distraction from domestic issues. Traditionally, people come together in a war. They’re ready to make sacrifices for the good of the country.They forget or are willing to postpone consideration of pressing domestic issues such as healthcare, minimum wage and growing inequality. The common enemy—be it real or imagined—takes our mind off domestic concerns. Think North Korea and the fear of nuclear attack.

Defense industry influence, the gun culture, the excuse for creating a security state, a distraction from domestic problems. These four links between domestic affairs and foreign policy transcend administrations and have existed since at least the Truman Administration. Recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, getting into a name-calling contest with an erratic lunatic with a finger on the bomb, escalating the war in Afghanistan again and trying to wiggle out of the Iran nuclear deal may make us quake from fear that our foreign policy has gone rogue, but the main outlines of the post-war bipartisan consensus to be both the world’s bully and its arms dealer persist, as does the pernicious interaction between foreign policy and domestic affairs that is the necessary outcome of that overarching strategy.

My mistake: Trump didn’t have private meeting w/David Koch & friends the day after Senate passed tax reform. It was another Park Avenue billionaire, Stephen A. Schwarzman

It turns out that my guess as to who hosted the private meeting Donald Trump had at 740 Park Avenue the day after the Senate passed the Trump GOP massive tax cut for the wealthy was wrong.

I said it was probably David Koch, and that Trumpty-Dumpty no doubt has his hand out for a little sugar from the windfall Trump’s Republican Party was giving the Koch family and their pals.

But the New York Times is reporting—six days after the meeting—that the host was Stephen A, Schwarzman, the billionaire founder of private equity behemoth Blackstone Group, another trust fund baby who has turned his head start into an estimated $11.2 billion in net worth. The Times report claims that the group included old New York friends and real estate colleagues, a tip-off that at least part of the article is spun from air or that almost no one attended, as Trump doesn’t have many if any New York friends or real estate colleagues after his buffoonish public behavior before and during “The Apprentice,” thousands of lawsuits involving legitimate New York businesses he stiffed and his six bankruptcies that cost plenty of New York real estate interests lots of money. New York’s wealthy and powerful elite have considered The Donald a joke since before one of his ex-wives first called him The Donald.

Supposedly many in the group who met with Trump at Schwarzman’s luxury apartment, urged Trump to pressure the Republicans in Congress to roll back plans to end the tax deduction for state and local taxes. Ending the deduction is expected to cost high-tax, high-benefit states like New York, California and New Jersey billions of dollars—part of the way Republicans are planning to pay for the enormous tax break they are giving to everybody assembled in Schwarzman’s apartment except for the servers and security.

My bad guess as to whom Trump visited matters not to the points I was trying to make when I—alone among news reporters and pundits—reported the meeting earlier this week. Whatever else was discussed, we can be sure that Trump had his hand out. We can also rest certain that whoever else was in the plush environs of the Schwarzman residence with Stephen A. and the Donald, they were multi-millionaires or billionaires aligned with conservative causes. The self-seeking and self-satisfied moneyed elite whose opinion matters more to Republicans and many Democrats than the will of the people.

And we can rest assured that self-interest was in the minds and on the lips of everyone present. Remember that it was Schwarzman who in 2010 compared President Obama’s proposal to increase taxation on “carried interest” profits to Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939. I guess he needs all that money to indulge his well-documented hobby of collecting expensive antiques and fine art furniture.

The question remains as to who was riled enough about my OpEdge article and had the juice to force a “correction” at the head of a front-page Times article. The article was about the fact that Trump is going against many other New York moneybags in wanting to end the state deduction. The fairly lengthy piece never returns to the meeting, or even to Schwarzman. The mention of the meeting was a factoid throwaway that was entirely unnecessary for the article and a fairly weak beginning to it.

So who wanted the record corrected? Was it Koch, who doesn’t seem to want to have any public association with the erratic and ignorant leader of the current administration? Or was it Schwarzman, who in the past has embraced his connection to Trump and his role as a Trump advisor? I doubt it was Trump himself, who would have no reason to correct a small inaccuracy in a blog reaching 40,000 people, and every reason in the world to pretend to the American people that he doesn’t spend a lot of time trawling for dollars amongst the ultra-wealthy. Although I have strong circumstantial evidence that the Times has ripped off my OpEdge and Jampole Communications ideas before, I doubt it was the Times that started the ball rolling after seeing my article, because the Times always knew Trump was headed to the Big Apple to beg for cash. It published two photos that referenced Trump’s day-after-the-tax-heist trip in the Sunday paper without explaining the reason for the visit. Of course maybe after seeing the OpEdge article, the Times editors realized they had an interesting little factoid they could use to flesh out a broader story.

We’ll never know, just as we’ll never know what was really said at the meeting. I doubt, however, the conversation veered anywhere close to discussing government actions that would help the vast majority of Americans not worth hundreds of millions or billions of dollars.

Behind Trump GOP grand plan to reduce deficit by cutting spending on social welfare, healthcare & Social Security is idea that the poor are inferior & undeserving

As many others have pointed out, the Republican Party hasn’t wasted any time letting the other shoe drop. They’re dancing their standard two-step of first creating a deficit by cutting taxes on the wealthy and then wailing that the deficit is hurting the economy; of course, the only way to fix it by cutting government spending on social welfare programs.

Reagan pulled this swindle in the 1980’s. Bush did it in the first decade of the 21st century.

And now the Republicans are about to take the first step of the same old swindle by giving the ultra-wealthy the largest tax cut in American history. Most everyone knows that the Trump GOP plan is to pay for this new federal largesse to our least needy in three ways: 1) Cutting spending; 2) Raising taxes on the middle class; 3) Creating a deficit.

Typically, the GOP waits a few years before calling for slashing federal spending, but this crass and brazen new Trump-led GOP has already begun to call for deep cuts to close the large and soon to get larger deficit. Both Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan have explicitly said that the next step is to radically shrink Medicare and Social Security.

Yes, Social Security. Remember, Reagan tried to go after the government run insurance program into which employees pay 6.25% of their earnings (up to a very low $118,500 annually) for the promise of a steady check once they retire. Social Security provides the bulk of retirement income for most Americans. The best Reagan could do was raise the tax, trim benefits and enable the federal government to borrow money from the Social Security Trust Fund. Since then, Republicans routinely treat Social Security as if it were part of the budget, and not a separate Trust Fund.

Bush II went after Social Security literally the day after his second inauguration and it backfired. Obama’s Simpson-Bowles Commission wanted to lower Social Security benefits as a way to pay for the great tax cut to the wealthy it was proposing. That went nowhere fast.

Now the Republicans are ready for another assault on Social Security as part of a broader plan to get the federal government out of the business of helping anyone except those who don’t need the help. There’s little chance they’ll succeed in doing much more than raising the retirement age or trimming the benefit. Too many people depend upon on Social Security, so like any head-on assault against the Affordable Care Act, an attempt to end or radically change Social Security will fail. Little nibbles at its edges, however, have succeeded before, so even as the GOP fire-bombers ask for a radical change such as privatization, the so-called moderates will be pushing to nip and tuck the program—lowering annual increases, raising the retirement age, increasing the tax, anything but raising the cap on income assessed the Social Security tax, which would of course hurt rich folk.

One reason that Social Security is so hard for the GOP to attack is that everyone uses it, and so it is impossible for the GOP to pretend that only the undeserving receive Social Security benefits, like they do with welfare, food stamps and Medicaid.

For those unhip to the language of racial coding, when the Republicans label a group like food stamp recipients as underserving, they mean “of color,” and more recently also “immigrant.” They revel in assuming that most recipients of aid from the government are minorities, and then playing on the racism that many whites still harbor—the secret feeling that whites are superior and, the not-so-secret fear that minorities are taking away the good jobs, the promotions and the college acceptances, deserving none of it. In fact, whites born and raised in the good ole U-S-of-A make up the overwhelming majority of the recipients of virtually all social welfare programs. But if the GOP can convince their base that only minorities—the undeserving—receive the benefit, they have a good chance of keeping their support.

We can already see the GOP begin to demonize the poor. Many news and opinion articles are repeating some of the odious things Republicans have been saying to justify cutting social welfare programs. Comments by Senators Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch that blamed the poor for their predicament have rightfully received widespread condemnation. Grassley said that poor folk would be rich if they spent less on booze, women and movies. Hatch chided poor children without healthcare for “not lifting a finger” to help themselves.

Behind the racism of these comments is a secondary code that the news media does not pick up on, and in fact often enables. To a much smaller, but much richer base than the uneducated white wage-working class, goes this secondary message: It’s not just minorities and immigrants who are inferior, undeserving and responsible for their own dire condition—it is anyone who isn’t rich. The rich got that way through their hard work, deserve what they have and don’t deserve to have it taken away from them—no matter what.

The idea of the deserving rich and the underserving poor predates Ronald Reagan’s politics of selfishness. It is a mutation of what sociologists call the “Protestant ethic.” The Protestant ethic starts with the idea that it’s not prayer or ritual or even faith that gets you into heaven, but good works in the real world. But one form of Protestantism, Calvinism, added the concept of “predestination” that those deserving god’s grace and a glorious afterlife were predetermined. As early as the Dutch Golden Age—decades before social thinkers were using Darwin’s theories to justify letting the wealthy prey on everyone else in a deregulated, laissez-faire market economy—the Protestant ethic underwent a secular inversion, at least in business circles and among the clericals feeding at their trough. The idea arose that becoming a success, and specifically a financial success, was a sign of goodness and god’s grace. Conversely, the poor manifested their inferiority by virtue of being poor. In a sense, everyone becomes self-made, untethered from their social background and wealth and the vagaries of chance. We know you’re inherently good because you’re rich. We assume that the poor remain so because they are inherently bad. The virtue of the “self-made multimillionaire,” as the right-looking-center publication The Economist once described Mitt Romney.

Of course the real world is far different, full of virtuous teachers, professors, nurses, home health aides and other educators and care-givers who make less money than they would as corporate attorneys or investment bankers. It’s also full of virtuous bus drivers, security guards, construction workers, janitors, telemarketers, cashiers, burger flippers and other low-paid jobs who work just as hard as corporate CEOs, hedge fund managers, advertising executives and professional athletes, but make much less money.

The wealthy have been playing one form or another of the “we deserve it” card since the emergence of modern democracy. Racism makes it easier to play because a racial inferior is by definition undeserving. But the ultra-wealthy merely use racism to divide and conquer. Believe me, they—and by “they” I mean the Trumps, Kochs, DeVoses, Mnuchins, Mercers, Anschutzes, Scaifes and their ilk—have just as much disdain for all poor people as the poor uneducated cracker cruising white power websites has for minorities.

Trump doesn’t waste any time cashing in on tax victory to ask wealthy and ultra- wealthy investors for his cut. His meeting with David Koch is ignored by news media, of course.

There wasn’t anything in the news about what Donald Trump did the day after the Senate gave the current Administration an enormous win by passing a tax bill which will produce the greatest shifting of wealth from the poor and middle class to the wealthy in American history.

You might assume that like on most days, Trumpty-Dumpty played a little golf and tweeted inanities. But if you check his schedule posted online you’ll see that he jetted to New York for three fundraisers. The narcissistic ignoramus to whom the Electoral College gave the most votes last year took a victory lap with both tiny-fingered hands outstretched palms up for cash.

At 11:20 am on December 2, The Donald delivered remarks at a Trump campaign breakfast, raising money for his reelection, a slush fund that will no doubt end up feeding Trump businesses. Next at 12:35 pm came a speech at a National Republican Committee fundraiser. We can assume that the money raised at that event will fund Republican Party operations and races.

The last fundraiser, at 1:50 pm, is the most intriguing of all. All the schedule says is that Trump “speaks to a smaller group of RNC donors.”

Wonder who that smaller group was and where they met? By luck of the draw, I can give you that information.

They met in the apartment building next to the one in which my wife and I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The reason I know this fact is that our street was blocked off for a few hours by sand trucks and was swarming with local police and Secret Service agents, one of whom told us it was Trump who was coming. A special receiving tent was erected at the side entrance to the building where the overgrown orange infant was headed. No one was allowed to walk on the street, and when we left, we were told that to get back into our building, we would have to supply identification. Just as we were leaving for the afternoon, we saw a procession of limousines arrive. At the end of the article you can find two photos that suggest how elaborately authorities cordoned off the area for Trump’s visit.

The building in question is 740 Park Avenue, a long-time New York symbol of ultra-wealth. 740 Park has its own Wikipedia page and a book has been written about it, 740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building by Michael Gross. Some of the current or former inhabitants of 740 include Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (whose grandfather built it), John D. Rockefeller, Saul Steinberg, Steve Schwarzman, Ronald Lauder, Ronald Perelman, Vera Wang, John Thain and Steve Ross, most of whom are certified billionaires.

While the Donald may have been visiting any of the thirty odd ultra-wealthy tenants in this venerable Art Deco building, I will state with extreme confidence he was there to see David Koch, of the infamous Koch brothers, the main organizers of the juggernaut of rightwing money that has funded conservative think tanks, backed conservative politicians and advocated for lower taxes and deregulation for the past few decades.

As Jane Mayer’s Dark Money details, the Koch brothers, sons of an original founder of the John Birch Society, are the primary organizers of the 40-year campaign of a small coterie of billionaires to change the American political agenda for their own selfish ends. Her book explains the process by which our country has reached the point at which it is overwhelmingly centrist-looking-left but controlled by right-wingers, especially at the state level. It explains how the Democrats could outvote the Republicans by millions and still not have a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. It explains why the mass media focuses on inessential issues such as the deficit or promulgates ridiculous myths such as the social value of lowering taxes and the idea that science is unsure about global warming.

In her update of Dark Money that includes what happened in 2016, Mayer reports that the Kochs kept a billion dollars in their and their associates’ pockets during the last election cycle that they had planned to spend to sway the 2016 presidential election for just about any Republican candidate other than Donald Trump. Yet even though the Kochs sat on their hands in the 2016 election, they are now deeply embedded in the Trump Administration. Mayer reports that the Trump administration is crawling with Koch operatives and lobbyists. Mike Pence was the Koch’s first choice for president in 2012 and has received significant financial support from the Kochs in the past. The Kochs set new CIA Director Mike Pompeo up in business and have provided him with financial support throughout his political career. Then there’s the cabinet, that skewers towards the kind of anti-regulation, pro-oil, climate deniers that the Koch Bro’s love to love. Did Trump say he would “drain the swamp” or “join the swamp?”

In the meeting with Koch and friends, we can only imagine the self-serving bombast with which Trump overstated his role in getting the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” (AKA the “Despoiling of the Middle Class by the Wealthy Act”) passed. He certainly didn’t turn any Democrats, and I doubt that he was the reason that the hypocrites John McCain and Jeff Flake decided to vote for the tax heist. I doubt it was Trump who convinced Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins that 13 million was an acceptable number of Americans to lose their healthcare to fund vast tax giveaways to millionaires, multimillionaires and billionaires. And he certainly didn’t influence the public or businesses, since every survey showed that the vast majority of Americans and American business owners and operators were vehemently opposed to the bill. In retrospect, his main role in force feeding this dangerous legislation through Congress was to keep embarrassing himself with tweets about his various feuds that dominated the top of the news, pushing the awful details of the tax bill to less prominent coverage.

It could be a coincidence that Trump paid homage to Koch and pals the day after the Senate passed the bill, since the signs that there would be no parking on Saturday December 2 had been up on Park Avenue all week. On the other hand, the timing was convenient. Not even waiting 24 hours to beg for money seems completely in character for the crass, tone-deaf Trump.

Trump wants money from David and Charles Koch and their ultra-wealthy cronies, to be sure—for his reelection, for his various business ventures that can profit from campaign expenditures and for the dozens of lawyers he is employing related to the Mueller investigation into Trump’s probable collusion with the Russians during the election and his ham-handed attempts to cover it up. I imagine he would also like Koch to support candidates least likely to vote for impeachment.

I doubt that the erratic, pompous, crude and ignorant Trump mixed all that well with the patrician and hardheaded Koch crowd. I see so many funny ways the meeting played out—Did Koch serve fast food hamburgers because he knows that’s what the Donald likes to eat? Or did Trump take one look at a spread of various tapas, sushi or crudities and dig into his pocket for a candy bar? What comparison to his own garish nouveau riche home and hotels did he make upon seeing the Koch’s furnishings? How crude was he in asking for the bucks? How many overblown guarantees did he make?

The Kochs already have just about everything they wanted from the 2016 election. The tax law will save them tens of millions of dollars right away, and billions more for their heirs at their deaths. The current administration is rapidly undoing a generation of regulations that protect the environment and level the playing field between large corporations and everyone else. The federal government is turning its back on climate change policies. The Department of Education is focusing its energies on privatization. There can be no doubt that the Koch crew would feel more comfortable with Mike Pence as president, or Paul Ryan if Pence has to resign because he helped to collude or cover-up. They’ll be less happy if the Democrats sweep in 2018 and Nancy Pelosi ends up in the White House. My guess then is that once Mueller has presented his evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” Republicans will abandon Trumpty-Dumpty, impeach and convict if Trump does not resign first.

Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, or the current occupant of the Oval Office—whoever is officially in charge by the summer of 2018, the Kochs and their fellow billionaires will continue to pull the strings. And one way or another, the 2018 election—like that of 2000, 2010 and 2016—will be one of the most important in U.S. history. Times are desperate for America, and certainly for the left. The side that wants a polluted, poorly educated nation of rich and poor has the money and the structural advantage they gained from gerrymandering after the 2010 election and creating a multitude of state laws that make it harder to register and to vote. All the American people have is the vote itself.

The social policy behind Trump GOP tax plan is to turn America into a polluted military camp of rich and poor in which ignorance reigns

Government taxation of its citizens goes back at least six thousand years, and at least as far back as the Greeks, the purpose of taxes have always been twofold: To raise revenues for the government and to guide public policy. In the case of Athens, the social policy was to go to war with other nations, as Athens would raise taxes on a temporary basis to finance war-making. But Athens also taxed every inhabitant who did not have an Athenian mother and father, which certainly advanced a public policy that has recently gained adherents in many western nations: limit immigration.

Societies and governments are much more complex than they used to be. Most industry sectors and most of the utilities that define modern life like electricity and natural gas service didn’t even exist 200 years ago. Tax policy can’t help but favor certain industries and individuals, and typically the hand-up—be it in the form of tax credits or deductions—is a conscious attempt by our leaders to make people and industries do something, or stop doing something.

The overall dynamic of the current Trump GOP tax plans is to give most people a tax break today, but heavily weigh the benefits to top wage earners, especially in the financial industry, and those whose income comes mostly from investments; the tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy are permanent, while most of the breaks for everyone else are temporary. In either of its forms, the proposed new tax system will not be revenue neutral, but raise the budget by 1.5 trillion dollars. Despite this enormous increase in the deficit, the Trump GOP tax plan still needs to raise taxes on many people and cut government programs and services to pay for what can most accurately be described as an enormous tax break for the wealthy.

Within this broad outline are the details, most of which assert a public or social policy, and they certainly are devilish. Let’s then, take a look at the public policy implicit in both the overall thrust of the plan and in its minutiae.

On the macro level, the tax plan suggests that its developers do not believe that people have any responsibility to society and that society should be a cold and inhumane place in which everyone essentially is on their own, sink or swim, with no help to the poor or disadvantaged to level the playing field of a market economy of private actors.

I understand full well the Republican line on tax cuts for the wealthy dating back to before the Great Depression, nonsense that the wealthy and corporations will reinvest their tax savings to create new jobs and that high rates of taxation harm society’s producers. But all historical evidence going back at least to the 16th century in Spain demonstrates that in the real world raising taxes on the wealthy and lowering taxes on everyone else generally produces economic growth, whereas lowering taxes on the wealthy generally causes stagnation or economic decline, especially when accompanied by raising taxes on everyone else. An analysis of the cash flow when rich folk, everyone else and the government get more money demonstrates the almost offensive illogic in believing that lowering taxes on the wealthy creates wealth that flows down to everyone else. Governments spend all the money in their coffers, sooner or later, and for most modern governments, it’s sooner. That spending becomes jobs, government contracts and benefits to the poor and middle class, which then get spent. When everyone but the rich get more money, they spend most of it and save only a little, again putting money into the economy. The rich, by contrast, will stick most of the extra money into dead assets, that is, assets that do not create wealth such as collectibles, real estate and stocks that are bought on the secondary market and not directly from companies.

Except for the stupid and the fanatical, most elected officials and certainly most of the right-wing’s well-paid horde of think-tankers know that the idea that cutting taxes on the wealthy will unleash growth is a ridiculous myth. We must therefore look behind their overheated rhetoric to understand the true public policy in the Trump GOP plan. If we judge the plan by past history and the outcomes predicted by virtually all mainstream economists, it’s clear that the public policy goes beyond laissez faire to create a society that favors the already wealthy and provides no helping hand to anyone else.

The provisions of the plan involve some radical truly social thinking. In the case of education, Ted Mitchell, President of the American Council on Education, put it best when he called the Trump GOP tax plan “a reverse GI Bill.” The GI Bill put millions of veterans of World War II through college free or at a very low cost, through government support of public higher education. By contrast, the Trump GOP plan removes many of the tax breaks that help people pay for their college education, making college even less affordable than it already is in the 21st century:

  • Repeals the interest deduction for student loans, which is taken by more than 12 million people.
  • Repeals the $2,500 tax credit that middle-class parents can take for having children in college.
  • Forces graduate students to pay taxes on the tuition waivers they receive, which will make many leave school.
  • Places a 1.4 percent excise tax on college endowments that exceed a specific limit, which will affect over 150 colleges and reduce the funds these institutions have for scholarships to needy students. Thus, in the same bill that gives corporations a tax break and continues the carried income tax break for hedge fund managers, most major universities will pay a new tax.

It’s clear that the Trump GOP do not see the benefit in providing or facilitating the educational aspirations of its citizens and see no benefit to society to educating the next generation of managers, engineers, physicians and other medical professionals, technicians, communicators, software developers, translators, urban planners, human resource professionals, teachers and the myriad other professions that require higher education. Nor do the Republicans place any value on the pursuit of knowledge or research and development.

Let’s move on to healthcare. From its many failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act we already know the GOP has no interest in providing low-cost universal healthcare, a birthright enjoyed by the citizens of virtually every other industrialized country of the world. Again, the GOP espouses the false idea that the marketplace will provide less expensive, higher quality healthcare, and again the facts belie this nonsense. The citizens in our private sector healthcare system pay more than those in other industrial nations and we get less, as our infant mortality and life expectancy rates are much worse. In truth, the rightwing that controls today’s Republican Party does not believe that healthcare is a birthright and questions the idea that it is in the best interests of society to keep its citizens heathy at an affordable price.

The Senate version of the tax bill reinforces the Trump GOP notion that it’s every person for himself when it comes to healthcare by ending the individual mandate that makes those who don’t buy healthcare pay a special tax. Most experts agree that ending the individual mandate will leave 13 million more people uninsured and raise premiums for everyone else by 10%. Both bills end the deduction for unusually high medical expenses. It’s clear that Trump and the GOP do not really care about the health of Americans—at least not as much as they care about giving the ultra-wealthy more money.

For decades, the federal government has encouraged support of charities and religious institutions by allowing deductions for charitable contributions. But to take the deduction, the tax filer has had to itemize deductions. By raising the standard deduction (which cuts taxes) and lowering the maximum that can be deducted, the Trump GOP plan provides less incentive to give to charities and will likely result in charities receiving less funding. Moreover, ending the estate tax will likely lead to fewer and less generous major gifts, as the wealthiest one-fifth of one percent—the lucky few whose estates are large enough to be assessed estate taxes—will no longer feel the need to give to charities to reduce their tax burden. Thus, where once the public policy of our tax system encouraged charitable giving, the public policy advanced by the Trump GOP tax bill encourages selfishness.

The GOP tax plans rescind a number of tax credits, each of which was instituted to support a public policy deemed beneficial to American society as a whole. The credits up for repeal include the adoption tax credit, the credit for the elderly and the totally and permanently disabled, the credit associated with mortgage credit certificates, and the credit for plug-in electric vehicles. The GOP prefers lining the pockets of the already privileged over encouraging adoption, helping the elderly and disabled, supporting home ownership and building the market for non-polluting vehicles. To those who argue that the temporary (!) tax cuts partially or entirely offset the loss of credits and deductions miss the point: The changes collectively replace the use of tax policy to implement public policy with a kind of brutish and brutal lack of concern for the direction of the country.

The tax plan, of course, fits together with the budget. Proposed budget cuts to keep the deficit increase under $1.5 trillion also reflect public policy. The example of our foreign policy expenditures truly represents a turn that will be dangerous to both the United States and the rest of the world. The Trump budget calls for slashing the State Department by more than 30% while adding more than a 100 billion to the already bloated defense budget, including for the development of robot weapons and more sophisticated nuclear weapons. The social policy behind this shift is easy enough to see: We now prefer to go to war or oversee wars others fight for us than to achieve diplomatic solutions to world problems and disagreements with adversaries.

Other proposed budget cuts show a disregard for the importance of research and development, public education and environmental protection.

The tax plan provides more benefits to the ultra-wealthy than to the wealthy. It favors those whose income derives from investments over those who work for a living and get paid well for it—the Trumps and Mnuchins over LeBron James and Giancarlo Stanton. What’s the social policy there? To reward capital over labor, even high-priced labor.

We could go on, but let’s take a look at the vision of the future created by these different strands of public policy: A society of rich and poor in which most people are less educated and less healthy and live in a more polluted world than now and drive on crumbling roads and bridges to crumbling schools and shoddy public spaces, a world in which the elderly, disabled and disadvantaged are left to pretty much fend for themselves and in which no one will ever know peace as we fight or support dozens of regional and civil wars around the globe. Dystopia.

The overriding policy of Trump and the Republicans is to push the country into dystopia to satisfy the greed of a handful of billionaires. Among those ultra-wealthy are the members of the Trump family, who stand to gain tens of millions from the tax breaks right away. Upon the death of Trumpty Dumpty, that amount would increase to the value of his estate, which could be anywhere from $400 million to $4 billion or more, depending on whose estimate of his net worth you use.

In the future, when most American are living from hand to mouth trying to navigate their way along potholed roads and in broken down mass transit, the air foul with particles and carbon dioxide, their tap water undrinkable, most people in debt all their lives paying off their college degrees, the entire country running on obsolete and ramshackle early 21st century technology, the billionaires won’t care. They’ll have their own computer servers, servants, concierge medical service, security staff, airplanes and real estate in the more civilized locations of Paris, Berlin and Shanghai. It’s the ultimate end game of the politics of selfishness.

GOP trifecta of inequality: increase deficit, cut programs & raise middle class taxes to fund tax cut for wealthy

Imagine stand-up comic Henny Youngman, king of the one-liners, describing the Trump GOP tax proposals with one of his classic bits:

 So how big is the tax break for the wealthy in the new tax bill?

Why it’s so big that raising the deficit by trillions of dollars won’t cover it…

Why it’s so big that raising taxes on the middle class won’t cover it…

Why it’s so big that gutting Medicare, Medicaid, the State Department and other government programs won’t cover it…

That’s right folks, the Republicans have hit the trifecta of inequality. Raising taxes on the middle class, increasing the deficit and gutting important programs that help every American so that the wealthy can get another tax break. Each represents a wealth exchange in which the ultra-rich get richer and someone else gets poorer. Any of these three wealth exchanges would in and of itself injure the economy while creating greater inequality of wealth. Making all three is likely to send the country into a deep recession or a real depression.

The Trump GOP plans are perfectly crafted to offend all democratic principles: The richer the person, the bigger the tax break. The larger the corporation, the bigger the tax break. The more someone’s wealth is in capital such as financial assets and real estate—as opposed to salary—the bigger the tax break.

The GOP says that when you lower taxes, rich folk and corporations invest in creating more jobs and in paying better salaries. That’s not what history says. History tells us that rich folk pocket the money and then invest it in the secondary stock market (meaning it doesn’t help the company whose stock you bought although it helps the senior executives with lots of stock options; the company only benefits from the initial sale of the stock); buy government bonds to fund the deficit that their tax break created; and dump it into other assets like fine art, yachts, apartments in Manhattan and beach front properties. Meanwhile, money will have been taken out of the economy, as all the spending done by laid off government workers, recipients of government aid and the middle class before tax hikes will be gone. Within a few years of passage of either the House or the Senate version of “The Great Heist of 2017,” a new asset bubble will form then burst after which the economy will go into a rapid tailspin. Just like 1929, 1987 and 2008.

The wealthy pay historically low rates on their income in the United States, even after two mild tax increases during the Obama years. In the 1950’s, when the economy mostly boomed and there was less inequality of wealth than at any other time in American history, rich folk paid 91% of incremental income in federal income tax. Remember that means that they only paid 91% on the income over a certain amount, maybe a million dollars, truly a lot of money in those days. With all progressive income tax systems, everyone pays the same amount within income levels. The top rate always applies only to income above that limit. Everyone pays the lowest rate on their income up to that limit.

Studies by Thomas Piketty and others have established that the economy actually grows when we raise taxes on the wealthy—that is, until we raise them too much and it begins really to cut into spending and investment in job growth. And what’s the point when raising taxes on high tax brackets begins to hurt the economy? Piketty computed it to be a taxation rate of 70%, or roughly twice what the current maximum tax on income is.

In other words, instead of decreasing taxes on the wealthy, Congress should be raising them—and then investing the money in the kind of things that we did with our tax money in the 1950’s and 1960’s: pure scientific research, infrastructure improvement (focusing more on mass transit and less on roads and airports this time), public school and university education, energy development (solar and wind instead of nuclear), healthcare and helping the disadvantaged.

Many of the Republicans know that, if passed, their tax bill will sink the economy and increase inequality of wealth in the United States. Most don’t care because they serve as mere factotums to the ultra-wealthy who finance their campaigns and provide them with cushy sinecures after they retire from elected office. Today Republican candidates and elected officials—and many Democrats, too–count dollars not votes and represent a narrow constituency consisting of a handful of selfish multi-billionaires.