The senator from Nevada, who made his millions in banking, brokerage and hay farming, and the senator from Georgia, who made his millions turning around the Dollar General chain of discount stores, and the senator from North Carolina, who made his millions as an accounting executive, were talking about the muddling middle class.
“Nine thousand diapers,” said the member from Las Vegas. “Three months’ worth of food.”
The three Republicans were in a merry mood on this Wednesday morning. Later in the day, in the U.S. Capitol, they and their slim majority of doggedly uni-partisan colleagues were about to vote on what the three millionaires were hailing as “a fix of the archaic tax system,” an allegedly epochal restructuring of the corporate and personal revenue code that, like everything else that has occurred on Planet Earth since Jan. 20, 2017, has assumed the Colour of Trump.
It was the proposed doubling of the Child Tax Credit that had Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada so ebullient on the subject of Pampers and pap. He had grown up as one of five children of a humble mechanic and a school lunchroom cook, he said, and so he could understand the plight of his constituents, despite his current and considerable wealth. Thousands of beleaguered Nevadans, Heller reported, “are living paycheque to paycheque more than probably most other states.”
But Donald Trump, through his sturdy leadership and business acumen, was going to steer Nevada, and the other 49 states, through the briny seas of Doubt and Democratic Obstructionism to the sunny shores of Prosperity. All the rest—the re-tweeting of spurious anti-Muslim hate videos, the report in The Washington Post that Trump still thinks Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States—is just static that doesn’t mean anything to anyone beyond the Beltway blogging class who needs to buy Huggies and hot dogs.
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“There is no question that this White House has a business mindset,” Heller said. “They want to move this economy forward. That’s why I see the Dow Jones up 25 per cent since the election.”
Heller was premature–by late Wednesday afternoon, the Dow’s ascent since The Donald’s inauguration was closer to 26. At the same time, the Commerce Department was up-rating its assessment of first-quarter economic growth to a healthy 3.3 per cent, and the president himself, who had flown to Missouri for another episode of self-promotion at taxpayer’s expense, was tweeting, with his customary self-effacement, “Looks like another great day for the Stock Market. Consumer Confidence is at Record High. I guess somebody likes me (my policies)!”
“Should Donald Trump get the credit for the rise in GDP and the Dow?” a Maclean’s reporter asked Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina.
“Absolutely,” Senator Tillis replied.
“Consumer confidence is at a 16-year high,” crowed David Perdue, Republican of Georgia. “CEO confidence is at a 20-year high.” The reason, Purdue claimed, was the action by the president to decapitate many of the onerous federal regulations that, in the Georgian’s words, “suck the very life out of the economy.”
“The president has showed wonderful leadership,” said Tillis.
“Market performance is 50 per cent factual and 50 per cent emotional,” said Heller, himself a former stockbroker. “People believe that this Congress is actually going to do what we say we’re going to do.”
“Right now, the people have so many reasons to decide that they hate Congress,” offered Tillis. But soon the solons were going to accord a dubious (yet ever-hopeful) electorate the greatest tax relief in decades, expunge the anti-freedom Obamacare mandate to purchase health insurance or face a punitive tax, and ensure that future generations will enjoy financial security, not to mention a $21.5 trillion national debt.
The young woman who lived in 17 trailer parks was on board as well.
“My brother was born in a tent,” she said at the Republican love-in. “I know what poverty feels like.”
This was Carrie Sheffield, executive director of an organization named Generation Opportunity. Sheffield noted that 37 per cent of millennials—“we created Airbnb, Uber, and Facebook!” she enthused—had voted for Donald Trump last November. Despite her own impoverished childhood in Utah, she said, she had earned what she called “a full scholarship to Harvard on merit.”
Sheffield had brought along a poster that lauded the benefits of previous revenue reform; namely, the Kennedy Tax Cuts, the Reagan Tax Cuts, and the (George W.) Bush Tax Cuts.
Now will come the Trump Tax Cuts, if in fact anyone’s taxes actually go down by the time Congress is done with them.
“Thank you for protecting us from Bernie Sanders,” Sheffield told the Republican millionaires.
Even Marco Rubio was ready to give the man who thrashed him in the 2016 election at least a portion of the credit for the nation’s (or at least Wall Street’s) recent statistical fiscal robustness.
Trump, Rubio told a breakfast audience in Washington on Wednesday, “has done some things that our political process needed, and some things that our political process didn’t need. Being a non-politician has been his strength and, in some cases, his weakness.”
Barring a sudden, drenching thunderstorm of unity, the Floridian warned, “the social contract will be shattered between ethnic nationalism on the right, and socialism on the left.”
Others on the Hill were less ebullient about the Trumpian economic record. “I’m no economist,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, told Maclean’s. “But I think that the recent economic growth and job creation were the product of the last two years of the Obama Administration and the first year of the Trump Administration. Credit has to be shared.”
“They will be known as the Trump Bait and Switch Trump Scam Tax Cuts,” Blumenthal predicted.
Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut and reportedly not a millionaire—far from it, actually, and still paying off his student loans—was equally unimpressed.
“The question is, why would you want to measure the health of the economy by the Dow that has very little to do with the health of the American middle class? The Dow is going up because it expects big tax cuts to corporations that will allow CEOs and investors to get a windfall.”
“Could the same thing have happened if one of the other Republican candidates had won?” Maclean’s asked Sen. Mike Rounds, Republican of South Dakota, invoking the spectre of 2016 yet again, and with it the once-viable possibility of a President Marco, a President Jeb, a President Ted, a President Chris, a President Ben, a President Carly, a President Lindsay, a President Chris, a President Rand or a President John.
“I think it would have,” Rounds, who made his millions in real estate and insurance, replied. “I think that any candidate that clearly understands the need to lead a business-friendly environment could have done it.
“When the election was complete, the people had hope, and they still have hope,” Rounds said. “The market is an indicator of things to come, an indicator of what people think will happen, and for that I think the president is clearly responsible with his message that America is going to become that place where profit is not a dirty word.
“Another candidate could have done it. But this candidate has actually followed through with what he said he’d do and that has made the difference.”
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