YHB hasn’t been writing about politics this year, because ugh.
Also because I find, increasingly, that I have little to say that isn’t being said by other people who know more than I do and who feel pretty much exactly how I feel. In some ways this is a very simple political moment at the federal level: the Republican Party is broken, our Only President is both personally vile and professionally incompetent, the Democratic Party is mostly unified in horror and alarm. There doesn’t seem to be any particular question about the appropriate path for My Party to take in government at the moment: we can have no influence on policy other than exposing its moral and practical disasters. Nuances of a forward path have been swallowed by the morass of awfulness.
This latest bill (I refer to the tax overhaul that passed this week, in case any Gentle Reader happens on this note at some other time) is a kind of case in point.
On the one hand, I feel that it’s important to point out that the bill is, mostly, a Republican bill that turns Republican priorities into policy in fairly predictable ways. If the country elects majorities in both the House and the Senate from one Party, and also a President from that Party, then we will see that Party’s preferences enacted. It’s democracy, is what it is. The Other Party believes—there’s no reason to think they are insincere about this in any way—that rich people are taxed too much, that corporations pay too much tax, that income from inheritance, investment or interest should be taxed at a lower rate than income from wages or salary, and that reducing the amount of tax paid is more important than balancing the federal budget. They also seem to believe, I should say they claim to believe and perhaps many of them do, that any reduction in taxes stimulates economic growth that (in addition to being valuable in itself) leads to an increase in federal revenue that makes up for the initial tax reduction. That’s wrong, of course, but it’s what tell voters they believe and it’s what they are elected to make into policy. Wouldn’t it be outrageous if, after being elected to enact that kind of policy, they did anything else?
On the other hand, this really is a terrible, terrible bill. Unusually bad, if I may say so, even for a Republican tax cut. It’s difficult to remember how bad the earlier ones were, of course, and it’s easy to think that this one must be worse because it’s the most recent, but no, this one really is awful.
So when I see people on the internet expressing their profound and passionate outrage over the bill, I have those two ideas in tension. I feel like saying to them: Look, this isn’t a surprise and this isn’t a betrayal. It’s democracy. But expressing that outrage is also a fundamental part of participatory self-government, probably a more important part than elections, honestly.
And that’s why Your Humble Blogger is back, writing about politics, for a day. To express my outrage over the truly outrageous changes in how we levy and collect taxes in this country, in who pays and how much. And also outrage over the incompetence and sloppiness (if nothing else, this will be a bonanza for tax lawyers, I tell you) of the process. And yes, the Majority Party (in the legislature, not the country) is doing what they were elected to do, so the blame is not entirely on them. The blame is on us all, on our culture and our populace, the people who elected them to perpetrate this outrage and on the rest of us who have failed, somehow, to convince our neighbors and countrymen to elect people—yes, Conservatives!—who are willing to work properly, even with non-Conservatives, on writing a decent piece of legislation.
I have been saying, here and there in other places, that this country needs a functional Conservative Party to represent the one-third or so of us who are Conservatives. We need that, for us all to participate in self-government, just as we need a Liberal Party to represent the one-third or so of us who are Liberals. But I think, now, that It doesn’t matter that liberals don’t give a shit about a functioning Conservative party. What we really need, for the future of participatory self-government in this nation, is to somehow persuade Conservatives that they need a functioning political party.
I don’t know how to do that.
In the meantime, perhaps Conservatives around the country really are perfectly happy with this bill. Ugh.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,