I don’t want to be relentlessly negative. Look for a post Thanksgiving Day that will warm your heart, and another Friday that will turn you into a recycling genius.  (Or click here for Stage 4 cancer hope.)

But how to look at last week’s events and not have your head explode?

(By the way? Exploding Head Syndrome, from which one of the characters in Meteor Shower, Steve Martin’s terrific new play, suffers, is real.)

Yes: a deeply conscientious Democratic senator was — rightly — called out for a stupid, gross, unacceptable thing he did in an earlier career, while volunteering his time for the troops.

He quickly acknowledged his mistake as inexcusable and constructively apologized.

The victim accepted that apology (if she can, can’t we?) but our disastrous president — himself widely accused of much worse and taped boasting about some of it — used the occasion not to apologize himself, but to divert attention from the tax bill he hopes soon to celebrate, as he recently celebrated passage of a “mean, mean, mean” health care bill.

Diversion is necessary, because as attention is focused on the tax bill, heads explode.  Even now, CNBC reports, “the tax-cut package is extremely unpopular, and it’s not hard to see why.”

The bill is in serious trouble because it so clearly and overwhelmingly favors the rich.

Indeed, it goes further!

Here’s how the Republican tax bill takes from the rich to give to the extremely rich:

The House Republicans’ tax reform plan has arrived. And as it turns out, the people it aims to please aren’t the infamous 1 percent, the upper class, or even millionaires.

Instead, they’re multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires — the top 0.1 percent or even the top 0.01 percent.

This rarefied group has poured gobs of money into Republican campaigns in recent years. And they expect a return on their investment.

First up is a cut in the federal tax rate that corporations pay on their profits — from 35 percent to 20 percent. Republicans have dutifully argued this cut will help ordinary workers by encouraging companies to expand and create jobs, but this is nonsense. The tax savings would largely go to dividends and other payouts to stock owners. And since wealth ownership in this country is even more unequal than income, the benefits of this cut overwhelmingly go to the richest of the rich. . . .


And there’s more.  Read the whole thing.

Here is Congressman Tim Ryan’s head exploding in two minutes.

Maybe he gets a little carried away — but can you blame him?  Record inequality is already tearing our country apart and dimming our future.  Now they want more?

It is a vibrant middle class, not a plutocracy, who are the “job creators.”

We’ve tried this.  Presidential candidate George W. Bush told a multi-trillion-dollar lie — that “by far the vast majority” of the benefits of his proposed tax cuts would go to “the bottom of the economic ladder.”

That was as bald-faced and demonstrable a lie as Trump’s idiotic insistence that today’s Republican tax cuts are directed at the middle class — and would not benefit people like him.

In the case of Bush, the electorate was fooled into giving him almost as many votes as Gore, in part based on this lie; the rich got dramatically richer; take-home pay remained stagnant for everyone else; infrastructure decayed; the National Debt soared.

In the case of Trump, the electorate was fooled into giving him nearly 3 million as many votes as his opponent (he promised massive tax cuts for the middle class and “great health care for everybody at a tiny fraction of the cost”) and the rich are poised to get dramatically richer again, as infrastructure decays, the deficit grows, and everyone else is left behind.

(In his own case, the principal tax we know he paid in 2005 — the Alternative Minimum Tax — the Republican bills would eliminate.  That alone would have saved him $20 million.  Eliminating the estate tax — if his net worth is $10 billion as he claims — would save his heirs $4 billion.)

Listen: there are things that should be done to improve the tax code.

But the estate tax — which should be called the inheritance tax, not the death tax, because it is the inheritors, not the dead, who bear its burden (if inheriting only $70 million, say, instead of $100 million, can be called a burden) — should remain at 40% above the first $11 million.

(So if, after your spouse inherits everything tax free but then dies and leaves your/her heirs $20 million, 40% of the amount above that exempted $11 million would still be taxed away, leaving them only $16.4 million.)

On estates above $50 million the rate should rise to 50%!

And on that portion of an estate above $250 million, to 60%!

Why not?

Would entrepreneurs and inventors and venture capitalists be any less incentivized to get rich, knowing that they’d be able to pass each grandchild somewhat smaller trust funds (even if they could name just as large a university research center, orphanage, or opera house)?  Would they wind up creating any fewer jobs?

Does anyone — anywhere — actually believe this?

The same is true of so much else in the Republican tax bill, but elimination of the estate tax is easiest to understand and perhaps more clearly than anything else puts the lie to their professed motivation of boosting the economy and aiding the beleaguered common man.


One more example.  Do you know why eliminating the “individual mandate” is projected to save the Treasury $330 billion over 10 years?  It’s because millions fewer people would be getting coverage.  And that’s great, from the Republican perspective, because it means the government would not have to chip in subsidies to keep their health care affordable.

My view: we should not be eliminating the individual mandate — or cutting rates for the very wealthy — we should be modestly raising taxes on dividends-and-capital-gains-above-$1-million — by 2%, say — in order to lower co-pays and deductibles to make coverage more affordable.  And that would still leave the rate on investment income lower than it was when Ronald Reagan, world’s greatest American, left office after eight years.

My head is exploding.

(And this is just the tax bill!  What about ceding world leadership to China?  What about ignoring Russia’s ongoing attack on our country that changed the course of our nation’s history?  What about allowing our planet to become uninhabitable?  What about respect for science, competence, facts, and truth?)

Let me leave you with two last thoughts:

> There is much talk of “simplifying” the tax code, and, invariably, reducing the number of tax brackets.  Hello?  The number of tax brackets is not what makes the tax code complicated.  The tax table (if anyone even ever looks at it anymore) is less than one page in a tax code thousands of pages long.  For 99.9% of individuals, the tax code needs no simplifying.  You simply open an inexpensive tax-preparation program like this one or this one (that used to have my name on it) — or perhaps this free one — answer the questions, and you’re done.  After the first year, you won’t even have to type your name and address, social security number, bank account names, and the rest.

It may well make sense to simplify the corporate code.

It may also make sense to lower the 35% rate by closing some loopholes.

But only if these things can be done in a revenue-neutral way — or perhaps in a way that raises more revenue, because we clearly need it to revitalize our infrastructure and damp down our deficit.

> You’ve played Monopoly™, right?  How about a new rule: when the game ends, the winner gets to keep all his money and houses and hotels (or give it all to his kids) to use at the start of the next game.  That’s what eliminating the estate tax does.  That’s what Republicans, the party of the rich and powerful, stand for.  And if you think that’s a good way to structure the game, more power to you.  But it makes my head explode.

 

 

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