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GOP Profiles in Courage

Governing is hard. It requires people to make difficult choices and compromises. Legislators must serve their voters through both the written duties of their office and constituent service on matters great and mundane. We would expect those entrusted with this difficult and important duty to be among the best and most talented in the land, to think deeply about the responsibilities of their office and to make moral and ethical choices. They would balance the interests of their electorates with the greater good of society, putting themselves last in this equation. These should represent the best of us, which is why there are only 535 federal legislators out of an adult population of well over 100 million.

Why, then, is it so obvious that this is not true? I will be partisan here, only because the time and the situation necessarily impart such a lens. But let’s challenge our legislators with a thought experiment:

President Hillary Clinton states proven lies more than once a day. Rather than apologize for this proclivity or seek to correct the record, she sends out her Chief of Staff, Press Secretary, and other officials to deflect or even to compound the lie.

After a terrorist attack in New York City, President Clinton neglects to call the mayor and repeatedly talks down the American criminal justice system, calling it a “laughingstock” and a “joke.”

Members of Ms. Clinton’s campaign staff have been indicted for possibly conspiring with a foreign country to disrupt the American election and for possible perjury.

Rather than seeing this as a problem that may be worth investigating in order to defend American values and our electoral system, President Clinton ignores the situation and blames the investigators and the media.

She has been sympathetic to white supremacists and neo-Nazis, morally equating them with those who protest their actions.

Is there more? Ms. Clinton has engaged in such a barrage of tweeting and unhinged statements that it’s impossible to keep track of them all.

Wait. I’m talking about the wrong person here. Hillary Clinton did not win the presidency, right? But if she had . . . if she had, and if she had done just one or two things on the above list, wouldn’t Republican legislators have called her on it? Aren’t these moral and ethical issues? None of them are partisan. I’m not talking about political matters such as health care, the economy, abortion, gun control, etc. Shouldn’t Republicans and Democrats all agree that the truth is sacred, our electoral process should be trustworthy, and bigotry and intolerance must be opposed?

This week gave us the reason why all these elite legislators (except for a “brave” few who have bowed out of the 2018 elections) have been sitting on their heels and letting our current president get away with obfuscation and division.

Republicans hitched their ride on the Trump wagon so that they can achieve the one true goal of the party, the reason why they get the unlimited Koch and Mercer money, and why they have worked so hard to gerrymander their districts--It’s all about the tax cuts.

And not just any tax cuts. Let’s look at how the National Review describes them. Of course, the editors of that journal call the plan “a decent start” and applaud the plan’s corporate tax windfall, but they also say this:

It’s a ramshackle tax structure that may make sense in terms of coalition management but is not easy to defend on any other terms.

How about The Wall Street Journal, which calls the plan “a much-needed and pro-growth reform of business taxes marred by a mess on individual taxes that makes that part of the code even worse than it is now.”

Even these conservative bastions can barely hide their disdain. Yes, they are eager for business tax reductions, but at what cost?

The Houston Chronicle offers a similar take:

The GOP proposal has many good ideas, but the plan does nothing to address the nation's infrastructure problems and fails to deliver long-term economic prosperity that would grow the middle class.

Finally, the Business Insider notes that while Republicans intend to make corporate tax cuts permanent and to end the estate tax cut for good, tax credits for middle class families are set to expire in five years, “meaning the tax plan, as written, would impose a sudden tax increase on middle-income families in 2023.”

All of this reveals what is obvious, that the Republicans have bent over backwards to give as generous a tax cut as possible to the wealthy, which left them in a conundrum: they needed to do whatever they could to make the plan appear revenue neutral, while at the same time making a show of offering some nibbles at tax relief to the middle class. It is all, to revisit the National Review quote, a “ramshackle” effort, a hodgepodge of a plan concocted in the dark of night with no hearings and limited analysis, being marketed via the long-discredited theory of trickle down economics.

There is probably a need to look at the tax code and its long term effect on the economy, and there are certainly both conservative and liberal strategies on how to do so. But the only strategy here is a gift to the corporate donors, the Kochs and the Mercers (and I assume the Trumps make out very well too under this plan).

Look, I get it. Politics involves compromise, and uncomfortable alliances are often made. But we're talking about representatives allying themselves with a man whose only loyalty is to himself, who has lowered the standards of his high office, and who has put American interests and values at risk. He goes against the values these politicians say they hold, he would throw them under a bus in a second, and they know it.

So the bottom line is this: the Republicans in Congress have eschewed all moral and ethical obligations to hold the president to the highest principles. They have allied themselves with a man who has debased the office, and whom many of their leaders don’t even seem to like. But their main purpose has just been laid bare. They have set the table generously for themselves and the top 1%. As for you, Mr. and Mrs. Middle Class, if you're lucky you may get five years of scraps.

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