Some political meanderings tonight. First Obamacare. Apparently that piece of legislation has now reached the exalted strata of political cowardice we call “settled law.” I’m neither surprised, nor particularly grieved by the fact, though it’s worth noting some insufficiently remarked upon aspects of its survival.
For one thing, the moral obligation to couple replace with repeal existed absolutely nowhere outside the left’s foaming chambers and the micro-hearts of moderates who fear them. If I shove a rotten cantaloupe down your throat, it’s hardly your responsibility to make a delicacy of the mess that gets vomited up. But that’s precisely the position Trump and the republicans allowed themselves to be maneuvered into by committing to Obamacare replacement. Repeal was all that was required of them.
It’s not as if replacement wasn’t already inherent to repeal from the outset. Consider this as an illustration: think of a time in America’s primordial past. A time when only the rich could afford top-quality bloodlettings. When rickets and scurvy stalked the yeomanry and poor people with symptoms of tooth decay were simply harvested for their organs. Is the time you are thinking about 2010?
Because that’s the year Obamacare was passed. Thus it is the healthcare Hellscape of that long-ago epoch that democrats threatened society would plunge back to in the law’s absence. Healthcare wouldn’t end without Obamacare; it would simply return to its 2010 prior state. And if that prior state was worse than now, then what about Obamacare are Republicans complaining? If healthcare was better before its enactment, then simple repeal results in an enhanced state, QED. They need bloggers to explain this?
The political reality is that Trump wasn’t elected because of healthcare. And for the small cadre of voters who did vote for him on the premise of Obamacare repeal, the number who did so yearning it be replaced by Ryan’s cuckcare is something very close to zero. And so a solution with no constituency failed in a heated political venue. That’s not something we should consider a surprise. Though it is something Trump should consider going forward. Unfortunately, I’m not sure he has yet done that. Because enter tax cuts stage right.
Now obviously I’m happy to pay fewer taxes. If out of every dollar paid we received a nickel of benefit, the Porter household would beam with happy surprise. But there are three problems with Trump pursuing tax cuts as a high presidential priority: 1) This was also not at all what elected him, 2) Tax cuts will fundamentally change no national equations, and 3) Spending must always be paid for. Taxes are just one method of doing so–and by far the most honest method.
Once a government commits itself to to the purse, it can do so only by printing one or a combination of three things: more money, more bonds, or more tax bills. Cutting taxes doesn’t in any way cut spending, or your obligation to cover the bill for it. Cutting taxes simply shifts the government’s print output to dollars and/or debt. Do you think either implies relief of payment? I assure you, they do not.
That’s why if you want a more honest and transparent government, tax cuts are one of the surest ways to not get there. Because taxes result in more direct pain. As treasury bills and inflation tend to be analgesics for the same injury. Rather than mask our unsustainable spending with mountains of debt and money printing, I’d like to see the grim truth itemized. American families should receive an income-proportional tab at each year-end. Yours might say…
Johnson family, you owe tax in the following amounts:
$10,000 for old people
$9,000 to float aircraft carriers, bomb Iraq, and fight foreign wars.
$8,000 for black room and board (appreciation not included)
$7,000 for interest on the debt
$6,000 for federal pensions, et cetera.
Though I’d prefer an even more detailed accounting than that. We should all know–and suffer knowingly–the costs of immigrants and refugees, foreign aid, subsidizing Israel’s military, and domestic spying among many others. If more people understood precisely how much of their life is spent paying for items of no or negative personal interest, our politicians would face a far more difficult chore during budget deliberations. But because people do not generally pursue politics who are interested in difficult chores, this suggestion will be certain to languish in committee.
The salient point in all of this is that Trump and the republicans have a potentially brief window in which to operate. Every move should be triaged by its lasting impact. Replacement health schemes and tax tinkering are comparative diversions that answer none of the national questions his constituents hired Trump to address. Do tax rates speak to the quality of life in Guatemala? What percentage of Guatemalans have health insurance? Do citizens of that country even care? If so, they like to care mostly from afar. A prudent Trump will quickly orient his agenda to ensure as many Guatemalans as possible remain there. How else can they enjoy its low 25% corporate tax rate?