The GOP Tax Plan is a Disaster

The disaster known as… “The GOP tax plan.”

Unlike our president who likes to call the Affordable Care Act a “disaster” when really he knows little about it other than that he doesn’t like it, I’m going to explain why I am of the opinion that the GOP tax plan is a disaster. Trump grasps superficially to the ideas around issues that confirm what he wishes to believe. He probably truly thinks this tax plan is great, he also probably truly knows little about it. He can just be told what about it he would like and he’ll sign it.

Like their attempt to repeal and replace the ACA, the primary goal of this tax plan is to deliver tax breaks to the GOP’s wealthy donors. This tax plan is your work buying pizza “for everyone” but the managers and bosses get to eat the pizza and everyone else gets to eat their crusts. Except some of the lower level employees wouldn’t even get to eat crusts but they will have to chip in to pay for the pizza.

After McConnel announced everyone in the middle class would see a tax break, this statement was exposed as a lie. On average the middle class would see a break but depending on where you live, you might end up paying more. He later came out and admitted this.

The tax plan the GOP is putting forth is (hold your surprise) centered around the floated but never proven theory of “trickle down economics.” If the wealthy have even more money they’ll invest it in growth of the economy, which will create more, higher paying jobs, so that money will trickle down to the rest of the country. The best response to that I heard was from someone on one of the Sunday morning news shows, who said that theory would make this tax plan defensible if we were in a recession, if unemployment was high. The economy is doing well, which means the people who will see most of the breaks in taxes already have money to use to invest and grow the economy and raise wages, if they wanted to. The wealthy don’t invest because they have money lying around. They invest to capture business opportunities and increase their profit. Whatever they would be doing with the extra money the GOP is about to transfer to them, they already are doing with the profits they’re making from the economy currently thriving.

The GOP is rallying around their inability to get a major achievement passed in the first year of Trump’s presidency as a reason to feel desperation to pass this. If we don’t get something done, after not repealing and replacing the ACA, we’re going to struggle in 2018. So their plan is to push an unpopular tax plan on voters to show them they can get things done and expect that to win them votes in 2018? Do you believe that? This doesn’t smell like that. It reeks, but it doesn’t smell like that. This is the GOP appeasing their wealthy donors and they’ll worry about damage control later.

This plan will add 1.5 trillion dollars to our national debt. They claim that economic growth will make up that 1.5 trillion, but we have other resources than just the political group highly motivated to believe generous estimates they come up with to justify the bill they want to pass. Nonpartisan groups run these numbers and give more objective analyses. Those groups do not expect increased growth to be significant enough to make up that 1.5 trillion dollars. So once again the “fiscally responsible” GOP is acting fiscally irresponsible, or at least reckless, in order to deliver money to their donors. They’re funneling so much money to their donors that they failed to stay under the 1.5 trillion dollar cap, so they’re also tacking on a repeal of the individual mandate, part of the Affordable Care Act. This tweak, the CBO, says will result in thirteen million people losing insurance and a 10-20% rise in premiums. They originally didn’t intend to attach healthcare changes to this tax plan, but they have because they needed to find more money: $338 billion. And while Paul Ryan will surely talk publicly about how this is America and he’s all for people having choices, this “tweak” isn’t about giving Americans choices, it’s about that money. These will be healthy people who “choose” not to buy insurance. It’s naïve for one individual to forego health insurance in hopes they won’t get sick or injured, but that one individual might not fall injured or ill. (That doesn’t matter, with insurance you’re buying the right to care if you need it, not the care you get if you need it.) It’s egregious for the government to pass this off on us when out of thirteen million people they absolutely know some portion of that thirteen million will fall injured or ill. When they do, they’ll get worse, more expensive care in the ER, most of which will be covered by taxpayers. Shouldn’t that concern the fiscally responsible GOP? It should but those extra expenses don’t fit into the 1.5 trillion dollar mark they have to stay under to get this law passed.

This is dumb governing anyway you look at it. Having a majority across the board might allow you to shove through some stuff but that’s a short term fix. (A short term fix is all you need if your actual goal is to win the favor of your donors and not to pass functional governing policies.) The GOP has made no attempt to bring any Democrats in since gaining majorities in both houses of congress and now the presidency. Wily Mitch works around needing the two-thirds majority and tries to pass things on purely partisan lines. Is that sustainable, to have a government where the minority party is just ignored? Particularly when you’re pushing unpopular laws, you’re bound to lose that majority and have the other party undo what you’d done. (Again, if your real goal is to show your donors your homework and get paid, then that’s not a problem.) And no, Obama and the Democrats didn’t do “the same thing” when they passed the ACA. Obama tried to work with Republicans, the ACA itself was a compromise to meet across the aisle with Republicans. The ACA ended up passing without Republican support but only because the Republicans intended to obstruct. The Democrats might be in obstruct mode, too, but how would we know? They’ve been completely cut out since Trump got sworn in.

Which leaves us with Trump, who besides riling everyone up with racist rhetoric also promised magic fixes to people struggling. Many people voted for Trump, not because of his racist rhetoric but in spite of it because they were frustrated with the struggle of living day to day. Trump promised them relief. He’s going to try to sell this as that relief delivered. Look how much I cut taxes, no one likes taxes, right? Look at how easy it will be to do your taxes on this postcard that I’m going to kiss. Have a look at the tax breaks Trump stands to receive personally and compare those to the break you’ll receive. He’s eating pizza and you’re eating his crusts. Trump is a deeply selfish human being. He’s only going to pretend to try to help you if he sees that it will help him. You missed that about him during his campaign, but don’t get married to that oversight.

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Actual Conversation between Me and My Cats (Word for Word)

“I would never hurt you guys on purpose.”

“On purpose? Why do you qualify that with ‘on purpose’?”

“I witnessed a tragedy involving a pet rat and a heel. Accidents, by definition, happen without intent.”

“Other One, are you hearing this? He’s saying he won’t hurt us ‘on purpose’ but is saying accidents happen.”

“Who said that?”

“The guy. You know, the guy who’s around in the evenings and at night and a couple of days of the week a bit more often.”

“I will fuck him up.”

“Other One, where did you learn to talk like that? And I thought we were buds.”

“You seem all right, but now you’re threatening my sister.”

“That wasn’t a threat. I respect you too much to be less than honest. I might hurt you accidentally but never on purpose.”

“Listen, pal, here seems cool, but don’t get confused. When you first started coming around, Mom told me exactly what you were up to. She said, ‘Listen, that guy, when you’re done nursing from me, is going to take you away and we’ll never see each other again. Don’t worry. He’ll take care of you. He’s human. They do that. They take cats in for the sake of taking care of them. He seems like an all right one, that’s why I let him pet me. Notice how every time he comes he puts your sister in the arms of his dying mother? That augurs well. He’ll take good care of you. Just looking at him, my guess is you’ll win the battle of being allowed on counters.’”

“She said all that?”

“Not in so many words, most of it was conveyed through grooming. Remember, I was practically an infant. I wouldn’t have understood all that in language. That would be insane. Then she said, ‘But whatever happens, you take care of your sister.’”

“That seems misogynist. Why can’t your sister take care of you?”

“She said the same thing to me. She told me to take care of my brother. But go ahead and take a crack at our mother who you stole us away from.”

“Guys, give me some credit. I clean your litter boxes. I keep your food and water dishes full. And why I’m not here most afternoons is because I’m paying for the house you spend every afternoon napping in different parts of.”

“Don’t play that card. You turned us into dependents when you took us in. Taking care of us isn’t a favor you’re doing for us. It’s responsibility you took on for your own ultimate enjoyment. It would be unkind and unfair to call you selfish for that but it would be inaccurate to call you selfless.”

“Good points, Rescue. Listen, guy, we know you’re careful. We do that thing where we go out of our way to be underfoot, I don’t know why we do that, we just do, what do you want from us, we’re cats, but you practically fall over trying not to step on us, so we know. You show us you wouldn’t hurt us, so if something happened we’d know it wasn’t intentional, but you put us on edge when you say it. What if I said, ‘I’ll never scratch your cornea…on purpose.’?”

“Yeah, that does sound like kind of a dick thing to say. I get you. Hey, what say I swing shoe strings around for the two of you to stalk and attack?”

“Yes. Of course. Obviously. But don’t call them shoe strings. Leave us to imagine they’re something primal and alive suddenly materialized in our territory.”

Trump’s Response to Terrorism Resonates, which is the Problem

Every American is heartbroken at the announcement of the next mass killing. All of us. Then we wonder who was responsible. It shouldn’t be the first thought, the first thought should be empathy for the victims and their families, but that’s more abstract. Who did it is where we tend to first go. I recently confessed to a friend how guilty I feel for always immediately hoping it wasn’t a foreigner, who is Muslim, with ties to ISIS. He made me feel better by letting me know I wasn’t alone in that feeling. I’m still troubled by that response. It shouldn’t matter, but it does because we have a president who does the opposite. He hopes the killer is a Muslim foreigner, because it fits the narrative he campaigned on and the xenophobic agenda he’s trying to push. He “counts his hits and ignores his misses,” which is gamblers’ logic. We know because of how he responded to the Orlando shooter during the campaign and when comparing his responses to the Vegas shooter and the driver from the recent attack in New York. He’s not alone. His xenophobic campaigning got him elected. At least some of those voters think the same way. The statistics don’t lie. The majority of these like clockwork random mass murders are committed by white Americans but in these cases the same people who immediately jump to tightening our already strict immigration policies are the first to say there’s nothing we can do about our lax gun laws because that would restrict Americans’ freedoms. That is not a valid opinion, that’s flawed thinking. But what is actually a statistical outlier validates Trump’s agenda and presidency, it lets people who voted wrong for president feel what they desperately want to believe: that they voted right. This is how democracies continue down the wrong path.

Negotiating No

A woman is clearly struggling carrying bags or boxes. A man offers to help. She says, “No thanks. I got it.” It’s obvious (to him) that she wants the help but has no reason to trust the stranger offering it. So the man starts convincing her he can be trusted. How does he do this? With the same words a man the woman was right not to trust would use. “It’s no problem. You really look like you’re struggling. Let me help.” What the man is doing is treating her “no” as negotiable. If he is successful, he ends up helping her, he proved he really did just want to help, but he also made her “no” negotiable. So her “no” in a future similar situation might be easier to negotiate into a yes, which will probably again turn out fine, but predators also look for women whose “no” can be negotiated into a yes. (I got this from Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear, in the intro he states that most sexual assault throughout history has been perpetrated by men against women, so that’s how he’s going to express it, so I did the same.)

I one time saw a woman moving into my apartment complex carrying boxes into her apartment. She was struggling with a large one and I offered to help. She told me no. I felt kind of rejected. I obviously could have been of help to her. Then I realized, What the hell were you asking? To follow her into an enclosed space. Reasonable for her to choose to instead struggle a bit with boxes than let a stranger into her apartment. Another time, just a few weeks ago, this woman at the laundromat had a kid in one arm and was trying to push her cage of laundry out the door to her car. So I held the door open for her. Then another guy came out of nowhere and one-upped me by saying, “I can get that for you,” and taking hold of her cart and pushing it out for her. She appreciated his help, but I thought that was a boundary not to cross, at least not without making sure she was cool with him touching her stuff.

I realize I picked two examples where I was kind of thoughtful. I can think of lots of times I’ve tried to negotiate a no into a yes, though. People do it all the time. And people are successful at doing it all the time. I would even say it’s something we do with a lot of positive associations. As men we’re raised on movie tropes of men persevering when initially rejected by a woman, so we’re taught to try to negotiate no into yes. Women watch those movies, too, so they learn to create a barrier out of no that is meant to be broken through by the “right” guy. Even the title of this blog post was originally going to be “negotiating no into yes,” which initially felt provocative and even vicious. Then I immediately realized it would sound like a self-improvement advice column.

I’m not sure what the answer is, because if there were magic words you could use to convince a woman your offer to help was sincere, predators would just use those magic words. They already are using the words that work to get them what they want. What was frightening reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker was how typical the early exchanges were between predators and their female victims.

Casino: Head in a Vice

Joe Pesci pretty much steals every scene in Casino, as Nicky, even though he’s a despicable sociopath who only has maybe one redeeming scene in the whole movie, which is where he is described as always, after a night of intimidation and beatings and murder, getting home in time to make his son pancakes before school.

Casino is the one where he stabs the guy with a pen, not the one where he plays nearly the same character and does the “funny how?” bit, that’s Goodfellas. In Casino, he drags a guy beaten practically beyond recognition and straps him down on a table with his head in a vice. Here, if you’re expecting yet another illustration of how awful this character is, you’re surprised. Because here his relative compassion comes out.

He’s trying to get a name out of the guy. He’s describing how tough getting a name out of him has been after days of beatings. He even tells his other guys that he knows they would have ratted by now. He admires the guy. So after he’s strapped him down, he gets real close to the guy’s ear. The guy is in a daze, so Nicky describes the situation he’s in. “Listen to me, Anthony, I’ve got your head in a fucking vice. Just give me a name.”

Then he gives maybe my second favorite line in the movie, moments before my favorite line in the movie, he says, “Don’t make me have to do this, please. Don’t make me be a bad guy.”

He doesn’t want to be made a bad guy. This guy is evil incarnate, but he apparently doesn’t know. He is operating with some sense of ethics, though it’s the first we, as viewers, would have guessed it.

“Fuck you,” the guys says.

So Nicky turns the handle of the vice, gruesomely squeezing the guy’s head. “Fuck me? Fuck me? You mother fucker, you.” Then just at the grossest crackling and popping of the guy’s skull, he adds, “Fuck my mother?”

The guy never said anything about his mother, but viciously as Nicky is cranking the handle of the vice and slowly crushing the man’s skull, he’s conflicted. He needed to find motivation to commit. “Fuck you,” was all he got, but it wasn’t enough, so he invented more. He invented that the guy said “Fuck your mother.”

Then he popped his eye out of his head.

The scene is disturbing and graphic but it’s also a great character scene. You can watch in on youtube here: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=casino%3a+head+in+a+vice&view=detail&mid=605091B6DBCED2CA150B605091B6DBCED2CA150B&FORM=VIRE

NFL Boycott: I wouldn’t kneel for the Anthem but I will stand with a man who chose to

Football is the only sport I still follow through the regular season. There are too many games in the other sports, so I only pay attention to the playoffs. Sunday afternoons watching football in the fall is a great unwind for the weekend, and I think the Browns were going to have a great year. But I have to give that up because of the NFL’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick.

It’s really difficult to argue that Kaepernick didn’t deserve even a look from a team. For a short while, he was looking like a premiere quarterback in the league. He’s still in his twenties. Think of some of the former solid quarterbacks who have at least gotten looks as potential backups. Think of some of the baggage some of those players carried and still got hired. (Michael Vick, as an example.) So we know why he didn’t get the shot. He knelt during the National Anthem.

This either upset the NFL powers that be or the powers that be of the NFL determined this upset enough of their fan base that they decided the controversy of shunning him outweighed the controversy of allowing him to play. The fans offended by Kaepernick’s kneeling for the National Anthem have all entered his mind and determined that he is disrespecting the flag of the country and everyone who fought and died protecting the freedoms that flag represents. Because to recognize that he is actually exercising one of the freedoms that our country was founded on by choosing a form of protest that would, and undeniably did, draw attention to an issue in this country genuinely important to him, and one he was willing to risk his livelihood on, which it has ultimately cost him, would prove they’re being self-righteous, which those fans are motivated not to do.

We actually don’t know what motivates Colin Kaepernick to kneel during the National Anthem, not for sure, but everything points to him being a man of integrity with the legitimate issue of instances of blacks consistently receiving unfair treatment, including getting shot and killed, by some portion of the nation’s police force at statistically anomalous rates. Wherever we stand on that issue, no one can point to it as trite.

So this is about the NFL, either by capitulating to a portion of its fan base or acting on its own set of beliefs, telling an individual he must stand for the country’s anthem. Forced displays of loyalty to the country, besides being oxymoronic, are in direct opposition to everything America stands for, which ironically seems to me more disrespectful to the flag and to the people who died protecting the country. By supporting the NFL, we’re supporting forced displays of loyalty. So I feel I must withdraw all support from the NFL. For me, this won’t be too hard. I maybe watch ten games a season. For other people this will be a lot harder. I would suggest doing what you can. If everyone gives a little less time, attention, and money to the NFL this season, they’ll get the message that we stand with Colin Kaepernick’s right to kneel during the Anthem. They’ll get the message that we won’t continue to support a multi-billion dollar business while it flouts one of the principles this nation was founded on.

Why the Confederate Flag Should Go

People are sincerely asking about the Confederate flag and other symbols, statues of leaders from the South during slavery, being taken down. A lot of this can be explained by correcting the common misconception that there is such a thing as a private language. Language is by its very nature public. You can take a very enjoyable trip down the rabbit-hole on this by reading an essay by David Foster Wallace, “Authority and American Usage,” which is an essay about usage dictionaries that is gobs more fun to read than you just imagined when you read “an essay about usage dictionaries.”

Symbols, like the Confederate flag, work the same way. What the public thinks of at the sight of an image matters over private opinion. This will make more sense when we look at an even more extreme symbol, the swastika. The swastika was a symbol of peace the Nazis stole because they thought it looked cool. No one would get away with wearing a swastika on his or her shirt with a message underneath saying, If you find this shirt offensive, you don’t know your history (because it started as a symbol of peace.) But probably just about everyone has seen someone wearing a shirt with a Confederate flag on it, accusing us of not knowing our history if we’re offended. Whether or not people who wear those shirts truly feel they’re celebrating their heritage or not is irrelevant, because symbols, like language, are not private.

Then people are saying, Who’s next? If we take down the Robert E. Lee statues, what about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, they were slave owners? Personally, I’m not a huge fan of either one of them. John Adams is my favorite founding father; he was an abolitionist, when being an abolitionist was rare and unpopular. Some of the things I’ve read about Washington and Jefferson leave me feeling they are over-glorified, but that is irrelevant because it’s private. The public thinking of Washington and Jefferson are of the ideals of America, that’s what they represent in the public view. That matters.

If this all sounds too arbitrary, I’ll invite you down a second rabbit-hole and answer the Who’s next question. As a childhood fan of Cleveland’s baseball team, I’ve had a challenging relationship with that team’s name and especially its mascot. I stopped wearing the hat, but it was only after I spent a few hours reading studies that I finally committed to Change the name, change the mascot. In brief, scientific study shows that the image of a caricature of a minority groups decreases a person’s sensitivity to all minority groups. How do they know? They have questions that reveal that sensitivity level and ask them to two groups, one that receives a primer of a Chief Wahoo image and one that receives a neutral image. They’ve studied this backwards and forwards. They’ve had to because the results get mostly ignored. And when Native Americans see the image, they score lower on levels of self-esteem. This is a group of people with much higher suicide rates. They even went so far as to select Native Americans who claim to not be bothered by the Chief Wahoo image being used for Cleveland’s baseball team and those people still scored lower on self-esteem after being primed by the image.

I’ve never gone down the rabbit-hole on the effect of seeing the Confederate flag. It would surprise me if the findings weren’t similar to the numerous studies corroborating this effect from seeing the Chief Wahoo image. I brought it up to illustrate the point that the argument that people finding something offensive is their problem because to the person wearing that shirt or flying that flag or putting that statue on a pedestal the image means something else is null and void. Symbols don’t work like that.

Why ‘I don’t usually get political but’ should be cut from political posts

There is a quote I like to apply broadly to life: “My vocabulary is perfect. Yours is either deficient or pretentious.”

It’s sarcastic, but makes the point that we tend to get fixated on ourselves and forget that other people have reached different conclusions about how to live, the words people choose to use being just one example. Do some people, sometimes, intentionally use 50 cent words to appear impressive? Sure. Are some people’s vocabularies so deficient they’re poor communicators? Also sure. Our current president’s limited vocabulary is a legitimate concern. He uses words like “great” and “terrible” and fails to articulate to the extent that people don’t know where he stands on important policy issues. We can change the quote to “I post about politics at the correct times. Other people either post too often about things that aren’t that important or they fail to post when they should.”

I’ve been told to my face that all I ever post about is how much I hate Trump. (Kind of jokingly but there’s a little truth in every joke.) First of all, that’s not accurate. That’s an impression someone’s formed whose thinking matches the point that quote illustrates. People don’t really know why I post what I post, so their guesses about my motivations say more about them than me. I’m probably like most people who lean left, I posted a handful of times my concerns about Trump and my support of Clinton leading up to the election. I didn’t want to make a contentious political season any more contentious than it already was. I expected Clinton to win and for the country to heal from the stress of an election season. Then Trump won and besides being deeply upset, I felt deeply guilty. I didn’t have a Clinton/Kaine sign in my yard to counter the Trump/Pence one across the street. I didn’t have a Clinton/Kaine bumper sticker on my car. So I decided I wanted to be more involved. I made an effort to get to the Women’s March in Washington D.C. I ended up at the Cleveland Women’s March instead. And I’ve been posting my thoughts and opinions more freely than I’m comfortable posting them.

I don’t expect to be hailed for pushing out of my comfort zone and posting more about politics, but I also get the sense that those of us posting about Trump are viewed as being bitter about the election or cynical or intentionally obnoxious. If a post is obnoxious to someone that doesn’t mean that the person who made the post was trying to be obnoxious. That’s essentially what “I don’t usually get political but” is trying to convey, that I’m not one of those obnoxious types who post about politics to be obnoxious, I have a genuine opinion I feel is important enough to share. It’s the equivalent of saying, “I don’t usually use 50 cent words but I’m about to use one but I’m not like the pretentious “other people” who use them.

If Trump has crossed a new line that motivates you to post about him, if it’s the banning transgender people from military service that’s done it, then welcome. Share that opinion. But why separate yourself from those of us who had that same reaction to Trump at an earlier point and made that same decision to put ourselves out there, just at a different time? Because there’s someone else who’s still going to judge you for putting your opinion out there, now. “I don’t usually get political but” isn’t going to spare you that judgment.

That judgment is deeply flawed anyway. When I approach any situation that involves other people, I’m always, subconsciously or consciously, well or poorly, evaluating how I choose to behave with how my behavior will affect other people. I don’t intentionally choose to act in ways that will annoy other people, but I also don’t allow other people to control my behavior to a degree that makes me uncomfortable. Well or poorly, I put that thinking behind every post I make. I try to assume other people do, as well. I’ll assume you did if you cut the “I don’t usually get political but” from the beginning of your post and just share your opinion.

What Makes Us Girls

Young girls mature into women under the male gaze. This probably feels like intense scrutiny, how much so and what influence this has on ego development will vary widely, but this isn’t an experience men have with anything close to the same degree or frequency. Lana del Rey writes from the perspective of someone affected by an especially piercing male gaze. This is my interpretation.

Watch me in the swimming pool, watch me in the classroom, bathroom, slipping on my red dress, putting on my make-up

The lyrics partly stand out because I know my niece is a fan. For Christmas, she got me a copy of Honeymoon. It felt a little odd to get a CD with a Parental Advisory Explicit Content warning on the cover from my fifteen-year-old niece, but I love that she’s a fan. Because Lana del Rey’s song lyrics I find troubling don’t offend me, they don’t make me like her less, and they don’t make me think she would be a bad influence on my niece. Her lyrics aren’t misogynist, they wouldn’t be if I wrote them; they reflect the misogyny still influencing us. They’re insights, whether through characters, her author persona, or her personal reflections, into how misogyny potentially affects young women.

The last track of Born to Die particularly makes me think of my niece listening, “This is What Makes Us Girls.”

Sweet sixteen and we had arrived, walking down the street as they whistle hi hi

They feel they’ve “arrived” at the age of sixteen and the confirmation of their arrival is being cat-called on the street. But the line I find haunting is: running from the cops in our bright bikini tops, screaming ‘get us while we’re hot, get us while we’re hot.’

Get us
While we’re hot

They’re running from cops but the subtext is hard to ignore. They’re perceiving of themselves as objects under men’s gazes, being wanted gotten, aware, already, that these same men think of them as having a brief shelf life of ‘being hot.” What makes them girls is this common experience. I hope my niece grows up with that influence feeling less pronounced, but I don’t see any drawback in her being exposed to honest writing from someone who seems to have grown into a woman with that influence pronounced. It can only broaden her life perspective and if she does identify it will help her feel less alone. My niece is probably never going to choose to share with Uncle Greg her experience of becoming a woman under the male gaze and it’s not a subject I can broach with her, but she knows I like Lana del Rey, so maybe she thinks her uncle Greg gets it. Maybe one day she’ll read this blog and know I’m on her side.