Jay Bookman

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

Opinion: Folly on a grand scale

We have 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring each and every day in this country, almost all of them going on Medicare and Social Security. Every day, the financial strain on the federal budget grows larger and larger.

We also have a Republican House, a Republican Senate and a Republican president about to enact a tax-cut bill that will slash federal revenues by an estimated $1.4 trillion over the next decade.

Think about the stupidity of that.

Think about the consequences of that.

Do not fear, though. Having created a massive new deficit, the Republicans have a plan to deal with it.

“We have to do two things," as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio explained this week. "We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future.”

Got that?

Let me review it, just to make it all clear:

  • As a country, we won't be able to afford continued Medicare and Social Security benefits.
  • However, we will be able to afford massive tax cuts to corporations already racking up record after-tax profits, and to the wealthy. Next year alone, as another 3.6 million boomers move onto Social Security and Medicare, we will be handing $34 billion in tax cuts to households that are already making $1 million or more a year.

It is absolutely ridiculous.  The additional $1.4 trillion that we're going to have to borrow as a result of this tax bill over the next decade will have to be repaid by our children and grandchildren. Basically, we're stealing money out of their pockets so that people and corporations who are already rolling in riches can become richer still.

But here's the part that really gets me angry:

In a speech in Missouri Wednesday night, President Trump repeated his claim that this tax bill will somehow, magically cost him a lot of money, yet as the patriotic American that he is, it's a sacrifice that he's willing to make.

"This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me. This is not good for me," Trump said, smiling like a cat with canary feathers in its mouth. "I have some very wealthy friends, not so happy with me. But that's OK."

That is of course a ridiculous lie -- there is no plausible means by which this bill could increase Trump's taxes, and a huge number of ways in which it will reduce them. If you believe the president's estimate of his net worth, the elimination of the estate tax alone will save his heirs some $4 billion.

But a statement like that is also more than merely a lie. It is a direct insult to the intelligence of the Trump base. Trump is playing them for fools; he knows it and many of them probably sense it as well, but it's apparently part of their mutual understanding that being played for fools is the price of cult membership.

I do not understand it. I do not understand what psychic benefits could possibly justify the abandonment of rationality and basic self-respect that we see playing out en masse these days. But I suspect that as a nation, we're going to have one helluva hangover after all this is over.



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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.