It’s easy for me to get dismayed at this photo of the rich and powerful white men congratulating themselves for giving the wealthy their biggest tax break in close to 50 years and lowering corporate taxes, at a time when income inequality is the biggest it’s ever been here.
It’s a snowy, icy day just before Christmas, a time to think of those who lack heat and food, but don’t tell that to Paul Ryan. After letting the deficit go through the roof, he knows how to make it up: cut down on social security, Medicare and Medicaid. Get that money back from the elderly, the sick, and the poor.
But this is not the point. The rich usually like to keep what they have and preferably get more. They have always bought our government leaders to some extent; now, after the Supreme Court decision of Citizens United, more than ever.
The big question continues to be why so many people go along. Why Donald Trump will go to some rally and men and women will yell loud and shake their arms up in the air in support, 99% of whom will enjoy very little of that tax cut and will see other benefits they count on go down the tubes if he and Ryan have their way. Why?
If this were any other Western country, wouldn’t those people be on the streets protesting? Wouldn’t they threaten revolt at the pie getting cut up to give so much to so few? Wouldn’t they march on Washington, shut down highways and city intersections, make the Women’s March of last year look like a kindergarten romp?
Why aren’t young people protesting college tuitions that only make sense for millionaires? Why aren’t employees protesting wages gone stagnant for close to 40 years at the same time that corporate profits have gone up and up? Why are regular Americans going along?
After all, the wealthy are simply not enough to put this President and Republican Congress in office, they need a lot more votes out there. They have them, and the question is why.
Vanessa Williamson, of the Brookings Institute, wrote about it in an article in The Washington Post. She reminded us that white-supremacist governments in the South after the Civil War invoked the rule of the taxpayer, which was nothing but a return to rule by wealthy white plantation owners. And later, “Anti-tax” activism in the Reagan era was stoked by long-standing white resentment to the extension of benefits to people of color, a political dynamic with a very long history in the United States.
Why does Black Lives Matter matter? Why does the discrimination apparent in aid to devastated Puerto Rico matter? Or the bans on Muslim refugees and constant threats at immigrant families? Because we are all natural allies in the struggle for economic and social justice. We’re not taking from each other, as Trump yells all the time; truth is, we’re all being robbed together.
We can’t get money for children’s medical insurance authorized by Congress even though the amount it costs is pitiful in comparison to the giveaways just authorized, but very soon Paul Ryan will invoke the specter of the old, sick and poor robbing this country—yes, robbing this country—of its wealth. And Donald Trump will remind us that if only we didn’t have refugees or illegal immigrants or, perhaps, anyone of color in this country, things would be fine, we’d all be rich as Croesus.
If you want to know why this is the time to concentrate on Black Lives Matter, the treatment of Native Americans, illegal immigrants, and the ban on Muslim refugees—it’s because how else do you fight a vision of this country that is white Christian entitled? In truth, we’re all being robbed together: Black, white, men, women, immigrants, Native Americans, refugees, children, the elderly.
Looking at that, you might say: Hey, there are a lot of us there! Surely enough to make some big changes.
As what’s-her-name used to say, you-betcha. Things will change when the white family that knows only Walmart-scale wages and never, ever to get sick sees that its natural partner in the struggle for prosperity is the people from the other side of town, families from different races, cultures, and histories. When we all see that a multi-society does not endanger our basic identity as human beings, which is the identity that counts, we’ll naturally turn to one another for support–and more important:–action.
What this tax bill shows is that trying to defend narrow rights and entitlement is a sure-fire way of losing the little you still have. When we start working together to take care of the whole, that’s when we’ll see a very different White House and Congress.