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The Journal Gazette

  • Zwirn

Thursday, December 07, 2017 1:00 am

Vote of conscience

Congress' compromise tax bill likely to undermine a series of core US values

Les Zwirn

Les Zwirn, an Indianapolis resident, is a retired health care executive.

U.S. Sen. Todd Young and the rest of Indiana's Republican congressional delegation owe their constituents answers to two big tax bill-related questions:

1. What core values do you stand for? and

2. Why do you persist in passing such a far-reaching tax bill by a party-line vote without hearings, without expert testimony, without space for bipartisan negotiation, without fact-based analysis, and without public dialogue when passage clearly undermines our democratic institutions at home, our global standing abroad and the future viability of the two-party system?

Most commentary on the pros/cons of the House and Senate tax bills focuses either on the complicated fiscal details (winners and losers) or the broken legislative process that produced them. This piece focuses on the core American constitutional and post-World War II values that the bills either preserve or undermine.

Sadly, four core American values are undermined by the tax bills; virtually none of our core values are strengthened.

1. Equality of middle class opportunity and reversal of the dramatic rise of income inequality since the 1970s: The bills ignore this core value by returning us to levels of inequality not known since the 1920s, effectively denying equal opportunity to the lower and middle classes in the new age of global competition and giving corporations huge permanent tax cuts without any strings attached.

2. The U.S. as the leading global economic power as measured by our prosperity and debt-to-gross national product level: The bills reduce U.S. economic strength to parity with the totalitarian regimes of China and Russia by exploding the federal debt-to-GNP level to one not seen since the 1920s.

3. The states' right to self-determination, especially in terms of their safety net and social programs: The bills punish high-tax states (often net federal revenue contributors) that have robust social programs by eliminating deductions for state and local taxes. They also represent a deceitful maneuver to turn the worsening federal debt crisis into a political imperative to cut popular programs such as Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

4. Preservation of our democratic institutions, especially a competitive two-party system: The bills irreversibly surrender the Republican Party to “Trumpism.” This disturbing phenomenon threatens an era of extended chaos, absence of bipartisan legislation, weakening of the judiciary, widening income inequality, and pulling back from our leading role in promoting global stability and championing democratic values. Republicans willing to compromise their principles in exchange for a short-term political win are putting party above country.

Sen. Young and Republican representatives must do some soul-searching before they cast their final vote on any compromise tax bill. They must tell us what values they stand for and whether they are willing to break with leadership to fight for these values. Finally, they must persuade us – with compelling fact-based arguments openly debated in public forums – that the final tax bill actually supports those values.

Then, and only then, will they earn our trust that they are putting country above party.