In the past few weeks, President Donald Trump has, in no particular order: tweeted out anti-Muslim propaganda, disgraced a ceremony honoring Navajo code talkers with a racist slur of Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas,” called Kim Jong-Il “little Rocket man,” lied about not benefiting from the tax plan that will line his pockets, revived his bizarre birther claims about Obama’s birth, and questioned the authenticity of his infamous Access Hollywood bus tapes.
News coverage of this nonstop carnival barking has missed the real story of the past month, however. These antics are a distraction from the pernicious GOP agenda that is moving through Washington with amazing speed.
Virtually unified Republican caucuses in both the House and Senate are on the verge of passing a truly grotesque tax bill that would give more than 60 percent of its benefits to the richest 1 percent of Americans, while those making $75,000 or less will end up paying more in taxes. The GOP is ready to hand global corporations a $500 billion tax bonus for booking profits in foreign tax havens. They’re happy to protect the obscene “carried interest” tax deduction that gives billionaire hedge-fund managers a lower tax rate than their secretaries, even as they eliminate deductions for student-loan interest, and add taxes on to graduate students for tuition waivers.
Republicans are also poised to tax Americans on the income used to pay for state and local taxes, while allowing corporations to deduct those same taxes. Trump’s major contribution has been to push for measures—elimination of the estate tax, elimination of the alternative minimum tax, lower taxes on “pass through” income—that will fill his own pockets.
The tax bill Republicans are trying to ramrod through the Congress provides a clear reminder of the real threat: the rabidly ideological Republican Party, which is looting the country just as it would have under a President Rubio or Romney. Trump had no clue about the policy and played little role in selling it.
Trump has also turned his economic policy over to Goldman Sachs bankers who are propelling deregulation of finance and rollback of environmental and consumer protections. Trump’s cabinet isn’t a bunch of outsiders but made up for the most part 0f Republican politicians and donors eager for the assignment. Now they’re plundering the executive branch. Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget, is about to disembowel the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Scott Pruitt has neutered the Environmental Protection Agency. Jeff Sessions is leading a rollback of civil rights and criminal justice reform.
Beyond the economy, Republicans are busy rigging the system in other critical ways. Young, right-wing, pro-corporate ideologues are packing federal courts at alarming rates. Trump makes the appointments, but he mainly draws from lists prepared by the right-wing Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation. After obstructing a record number of Obama nominees to the federal bench, Senate Republicans are now trampling over longstanding legislative procedures to get as many judges on the bench as quickly as possible.