Trump mostly ap­peals to su­per rich

The Record (Troy, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - EJ Dionne E.J. Dionne’s email ad­dress is ej­dionne@wash­ Twit­ter: @EJ­Dionne.

The fo­cus on Pres­i­dent Trump’s po­lit­i­cal strength among white work­ing-class vot­ers dis­tracts from a truth that may be more im­por­tant: His rise de­pended on sup­port from rich con­ser­va­tives, and his pro­gram serves the in­ter­ests of those who have ac­cu­mu­lated enor­mous wealth.

This ex­plains why so few Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans de­nounce him, no mat­ter how close he edges to­ward au­toc­racy, how much big­otry he spreads -- or how of­ten he pan­ders to Vladimir Putin and de­nounces our own in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, as he did again this week­end.

The GOP lead­er­ship knows Trump is tilt­ing our econ­omy to­ward peo­ple just like him­self, the ob­jec­tive they care about most.

To bor­row from the pres­i­dent, he could stand in the mid­dle of Fifth Av­enue and shoot some­body and still not lose House Speaker Paul Ryan or Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell as long as they have a re­ac­tionary tax bill to push into law.

Last Tues­day’s elec­tions demon­strated how fed up large parts of the na­tion are with Trump and how mo­bi­lized his op­po­nents have be­come. The re­turns rat­i­fied polls show­ing the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans re­ject­ing his stew­ard­ship.

Rather than just cel­e­brate the good news, Democrats and an­tiTrump Repub­li­cans should move next to un­der­mine Trump’s key as­set. He needs to be ex­posed as a fraud when­ever he says he has the backs of the “for­got­ten men and women” whose liv­ing stan­dards have been shat­tered in the new econ­omy.

Ad­mit­tedly, do­ing this will be harder for con­ser­va­tives than for pro­gres­sives. Af­ter all, many con­ser­va­tives have de­fended trick­le­down eco­nom­ics for decades. But there is a wing of con­ser­vatism that has crit­i­cized the GOP for ex­ploit­ing the votes of work­ing-class Amer­i­cans for years, even be­fore, Trump while de­liv­er­ing them a whole lot of noth­ing.

This was the ar­gu­ment of the 2008 book “Grand New Party” by Ross Douthat, now a New York Times colum­nist, and Rei­han Salam, an in­de­pen­dent-minded con­ser­va­tive pol­icy an­a­lyst. They pro­posed that Repub­li­cans be­come “The Party of Sam’s Club.” But the ex­ist­ing party’s tax pro­pos­als con­firm that the GOP is the Party of Prada. And Prada may be a tri­fle down­scale to cap­ture the rad­i­cal re­dis­tri­bu­tion up­ward that these tax cuts would bring about. It is Ex­hibit A for how far Trump and his party will go to en­trench an eco­nomic oli­garchy.

Trump’s will­ing­ness to help Repub­li­can lead­ers pay off their largest con­trib­u­tors is the clear­est ex­pla­na­tion for why they de­base them­selves through their com­plic­ity with him. If you think this is harsh, con­sider the words of Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y.: “My donors

are ba­si­cally say­ing, ‘Get this done or don’t ever call me again.’” I bet they are.

As Gary Cohn, Trump’s top eco­nomic ad­viser, told CNBC’s John Har­wood: “The most ex­cited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan.”

They should be. The bills now be­fore the House and Se­nate don’t sim­ply fa­vor the well-off over the mid­dle class and the poor. They ad­van­tage cer­tain kinds of ex­tremely rich peo­ple over Amer­i­cans who work for salaries and wages, in­clud­ing some rather af­flu­ent peo­ple who draw those old­fash­ioned things called pay­checks. Even Karl Marx would be as­ton­ished at how far Repub­li­cans are will­ing to go to ben­e­fit cap­i­tal over la­bor.

All sorts of de­duc­tions used by the mid­dle and up­per-mid­dle classes are be­ing thrown over the side to pay for a cut in the nom­i­nal cor­po­rate tax rate from 35 per­cent to 20 per­cent, which is es­pe­cially help­ful to the big­gest stock­hold­ers -- and, in the House ver­sion, to re­lieve those strug­gling mil­lion­aire and bil­lion­aire heirs and heiresses from the hor­ri­ble bur­dens of the es­tate tax. (The Se­nate ver­sion would re­duce but not elim­i­nate the tax.)

Re­peal­ing var­i­ous tax breaks might be jus­ti­fied if these pro­pos­als ac­tu­ally sim­pli­fied the tax code to make it fairer. But in many ways, this con­coc­tion makes the code even more com­plex with all its special pro­vi­sions for “passthrough” in­come and the like. That’s an­other big lie in this deal: The GOP never cared about sim­pli­fi­ca­tion. It just wants to fur­ther the in­ter­ests of its flush­est friends.

Oh, yes, and Repub­li­cans, who would de­mand that Hil­lary Clin­ton dis­close ev­ery penny of her high school earn­ings from lawn­mow­ing or baby-sit­ting, won’t think of ask­ing Trump to re­lease his tax re­turns so we can know how many ben­e­fits he might sign into law for him­self.

The Trump regime is not all that in­no­va­tive. It hides its poli­cies be­hind di­vi­sive rhetoric about kneel­ing NFL play­ers -- NFL own­ers will profit from the bill, by the way -- and im­mi­grants. This is the sort of thing right-wing au­thor­i­tar­i­ans have done for decades. It never turns out well.

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