Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: An ethos of more, more and more....

This is an administration of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. In fact, Americans have not seen an administration this blatantly tilted toward the interests of the wealthy in at least a hundred years, if ever.

And while that's remarkable in its own right, it's even more so when you consider the context:

1.) This administration has come to power in an era when wealth is already highly concentrated and income inequity is already at record high levels.  Look around you. The stock market has never been higher. Corporate after-tax profits have never been higher. The amount of wealth concentrated among the top 1 percent and top 0.1 percent has never been higher, at least not in modern times. Yet in every way imaginable -- through regulatory changes, through tax policy, through the people it has placed in positions of power -- this administration is implementing policies intended to make those inequities worse, not better, to make the powerful more powerful still.

2.) By this point, those inequities and the dangers that they pose to the economy and to our country's identity are well-recognized. History tells us over and over again that democracies do not thrive in countries with extreme differentials in wealth. Furthermore, this administration was elected on the explicit promise that it would take the side of the forgotten little man and woman against Wall Street and transnational corporations and the powerful establishment. By doing the exact opposite, by tightening the ties linking Washington to Wall Street, it is perpetrating a bait-and-switch scam on a scale seldom if ever witnessed in American politics.

You may recall that during the campaign, the American people were promised cheaper, better health care for everyone, with full protection for those with pre-existing conditions. What they got instead was a plan that would have stripped insurance from 20 million to 30 million Americans, with the money saved going to the wealthy in the form of tax cuts.

They were also promised over and over again by Donald Trump that foundational programs such as Medicaid and Medicare would not be touched, that their budgets would be sacrosanct. Instead, they have witnessed repeated underhanded efforts with Trump's approval to strip hundreds of billions of dollars from those programs, with the proceeds again earmarked for the already rich.

They also heard heartfelt promises to address the opioid crisis that is killing tens of thousands, but have gotten nothing but proposed cutbacks in the few treatment programs that already exist. They were promised a major infrastructure investment program, and got nothing. They were told that firms such as Goldman Sachs exemplified the establishment that was rigging the system against them, then saw the entire economic policy-making structure handed over to Goldman Sachs officials. They were promised that trade deals would be renegotiated, and have gotten nothing. They heard promises to break the iron grip of Big Pharma in setting drug prices, and instead have watched as longtime pharmaceutical lobbyists have been installed as foxes to watch the lucrative henhouse.

They -- you -- were also promised a middle-class tax cut. Instead you got this:



That's a chart of the impact on the Senate tax cut bill, released over the weekend by the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office. Positive numbers mean that Americans in that particular income bracket will be "contributing" to reduce the deficit, either by higher taxes or lower benefits. Put another way, those are the folks who will suffer a reduced standard of living under this bill.

Likewise, negative numbers mean that those in that income bracket will benefit financially under the bill.

If you do the math, more than half of the benefits in 2019 go to the 6 percent of taxpayers with incomes above $200,000, while those households making $30,000 or less will take a net loss. From there it gets worse, because under the bill, the tax policies that help the poor and middle class are repealed or lose effect over time, while those that help corporations and the rich are permanent.

By 2027, 65 percent of American households -- the poorer 65 percent -- will be losing money and will suffer from a diminished standard of living as a consequence of this bill. By 2027, the top 35 percent will still be benefiting handsomely. It is almost unbelievable that in times such as these, a bill like this could be so close to becoming law.

Yet there it is.

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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.