Sunday, December 3, 2017
GOOD NEWS/BAD NEWS
In what is yet another ground breaking moment in modern presidential history, President Trump recently marked his first big legislative victory and then almost immediately saw a scandal explode in his face. He is the first president ever to be so heavily investigated about a possibly impeachable scandal so early in his regime. While it seems like decades since he first ranted his way into office, it hasn't even been a year yet.
First, the good news for Trump; the Senate recently passed a massive tax cut bill that he has been pushing for. Although there will have to be a few changes made to square the Senate bill with the one that the House of Representatives passed a short time ago, that's mostly a formality, and the bill will probably be on the president's desk before the new year. After he was unable to get the Senate to repeal Obamacare, this is a big win for him.
But is the bill good news for the American people? For the vast majority, the answer is a resounding no: it's centerpiece is a reduction in the corporate tax rate; it is assumed that the money saved by companies will be spent on hiring more workers and raising salaries for the workers they already have. But there's no guarantee that that will be the result, and, based on past corporate behavior, it's far more likely that the money will be used to benefit the companies already wealthy stockholders and CEO's. While the tax plan does contain some cuts for most middle class people, those cuts are set to expire sometime in the next decade, while the ending of the estate tax, which benefits literally only the wealthiest 1% of Americans, will not be coming back. The tax bill will blow a hole in deficit of well over a trillion dollars, the same deficit that the Republican party was so worried about increasing while Obama was president. And the changes it makes to the Affordable Care Act are estimated to take healthcare away from a stunning thirteen million people. This bill is a complete repudiation of the populist campaign that Trump ran; from his claim to speak for "the forgotten man" to his frequent bashing of Wall Street, he always said that he wanted to help the common worker. And he's about to sign a bill that will do nothing for them, and even worse, the lowering of government revenue may very well result in cuts to Medicare and Social Security, the very programs he pledged to protect. To top it all off, he recently gave a speech claiming that this bill was going to be bad for him; as the New York Times pointed out, his leaked tax returns of 2005 show that the plan will save him at least a billion dollars. So, add yet another lie to the list of the many, many ones he has told as president.
Even the drafting of the bill was despicable; it was passed on a party line vote with little to no real debate, and once it was sure of passage, new provisions were literally penciled into it in the wee hours of the morning. There's even an antiabortion provision! Quite frankly, the passage of this bill will see the country drift even more towards third world status, with more and more total wealth being held by fewer and fewer people, while the poor and middle class will have worse healthcare and education choices. It may be a bigger disaster than the aborted Obamacare repeal, and that's saying something.
And now to the bad news for Trump: former National Security Advisor Micheal Flynn has admitted guilt to lying to the FBI (among other charges) and has accepted a plea bargain in return for aiding special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation into just how much the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government in the 2016 election and whether or not the president has obstructed justice by trying to kill the investigation. This is very bad news for Trump: for one thing, it's the third felony conviction made against members of his administration (Paul Manafort and George Papadopolous were both charged last month) and it definitely looks like this is just the tip of the iceberg. The investigation will probably lead to an inquiry and possible charges made against the president's son in law Jared Kushner. Yes, it's quite possible that very soon we will get another unprecedented political moment; a president that pardons a member of his own family.
Just how far will the investigations go? At this point it's hard to say. But one thing to note is that, once the tax bill is passed, the congressional Republicans may be more willing to cut him loose. With his low approval ratings and increasingly erratic behavior, there may come a time when the Republicans feel that President Pence (or even Ryan) would be easier to deal with. And the fact that Trump's constant state of anger and childish tweets have lead him to attack Republican members of congress may come back to haunt him. It would be nice for once in his life for Trump to realize that lying, boasting and childish insults are not the way to run a country, or even manage an Arby's, for that matter.