The new tax bill has raised hackles with just about everyone who is not a member of the financial elite of our country. It seems to me a lot of the blowback and fury is directed at the financial screwing this bill delivers. I suspect that the estimates of how much and how hard we’re going to get screwed are accurate. Also, the notion that it will make the overall economy grow faster is so mendacious as to offend even the mildly rich. Let’s see, they’re arguing that giving businesses big more unearned income to take full advantage all the nooks and crannies of the bill will help their customers and line employees. Really?
Those businesses are already earning new record profits every month. They are sitting on trillions of dollars in cash from those profits. We are at essentially full employment. And when those companies have a wave of additional profits, remember, they’re already sitting on a ton of cash, we are being told these companies will take all this new found cash and use it differently than the trillions they already have.
But for the sake of this discussion, let’s stipulate they’ll invest it rather than sit on it or dispense it to share holders and senior executives. First, they are currently producing all the product or service their customers will buy, at the price they’re selling it at. So, maybe, if they lower their prices, their customers will buy more, maybe. Well, in the long term, how do you lower the price of your product or service? Lower your cost. Do you do this by hiring more people at a higher wage? Giving you current employees a raise? Not likely.
So what would you do? Find ways to lower the cost of your product. How would you do that? Invest in … … new technology that will require fewer employees to produce more with an equal or higher quality standard. Yet they’re proffering the notion these companies will hire more people and/or give their current line workers a hefty raise. Not plausible, even in a fairy tale.
Yet with all that, I am convinced that fucking us financially is not the most destructive aspect of this bill. The most draconian, and completely foreseen, and planned for, aspect is to further manipulate our legal system to repress the regime of private enforcement of public policy. What? Yes, private enforcement of our public policy standards, laws, and regulations. Really, that’s our system? Yes. For 50+ years or so, laws attempting to regulate and reform have been passed with an incredibly weak enforcement regimen. What enforcement muscle that exists is tied to money Congress would, or would not, supply the agencies tasked with that enforcement. So enforcement was handed to the private sector through transference of legal fees. We’ll talk about what this means in another discussion.
Let’s look at just one of these public institutions. The one almost everyone likes to hate, the IRS. As our tax laws and regulations have become ever more complex, has the IRS been given the additional money it needs to enforce that complexity? Duh!
What does this new tax bill guarantee? Tight budgets, so less money for public services, all public services. Yet collecting on and enforcing all this new complexity actually takes more time and more enforcers with advanced training in accounting and tax law. And this requires less money? Right.
So while those businesses with all that cash will get even more cash to hire even more highly skilled lawyers and accountants to exploit every detail of the tax code that their lobbyists put in the bill. Tthe folks tasked with enforcing it will get less money, a lot less. Please accept, for now, that this private enforcement of public policy regime is reality and stretches its tentacles into every aspect of the entire public policy apparatus, including our election system.
We know that the Russians, and almost certainly other state actors, want to undermine the reach and power of the US. We also know that one very productive, and really inexpensive tactic is to exacerbate our polarization. If this also further undermines our confidence in our public institutions, including the press, what a fucking deal. One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is to undermine our faith in our voting processes, as well as the outcome.
We have permitted our elected officials to ignore our electoral and voting systems to the point of making them seem untrustworthy. Twice in the past 18 years we had a president elected with a minority of the votes. Everybody screams at this. The winners scream that the losers are just expressing sour grapes for losing. The losers scream that since when in a democracy does the loser get to claim victory. What could be more divisive? For the two elections in this century, the Republicans have been the beneficiaries. If it happens again, and the Democrats are the beneficiaries, do you imagine the Republicans will scream less loudly?
Then there’s the voting process itself, no paper trail in many cases.
There are multiple other arenas that this private enforcement of public policy operates in, too many to even mention here. However, one thing is certain. If we cut the budget of the IRS, and the Republican congress has, again and again, our ability to enforce tax law will be diminished, a lot. And those with the most resources to exploit that lax enforcement will benefit the most.
So please, tell me again how starving the IRS (and other departments, including State) will benefit us as a society, a nation. And show me how ignoring our voting and electoral systems will benefit us. Please.