Photo by Eric Baumann, via Flickr

December 5, 2017 Brad Johnson 1Comment

Hyperbole is now a strategy.

In reflection upon the constitutional republican system they had just established, Benjamin Franklin once said, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” This is especially relevant today because, according to many, Congress has just caused the former by way of the latter. Tax reform has been on the Republican to-do list for quite some time, and it is certainly much needed. The United States Tax Code sits at a whopping 73,954 pages in breadth. It is next to impossible for a layman to fully understand, and it has only grown more complex through the years.

Republicans across the country campaigned on addressing this problem. After having won both houses of Congress, and now the Presidency, tax reform remained at the top of their agenda — and with a failed effort to repeal Obamacare, their sights turned solely to tax reform. Enter the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Being the largest tax cut since the Bush tax cuts over a decade ago, and the most significant reform overall since 1986, there were naturally many opinions to be had on the matter. It is not a perfect bill, and I’d argue not even a great bill, but it does cut taxes for many and the Senate version repeals the individual mandate put in place under the ironically named Affordable Care Act. Among the opposition though, you’d think the tax bill introduced “death panels.”

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi — surely, as one of R.E.M.’s biggest hits played in the background — likened this fairly standard tax bill to “Armageddon.” Kurt Eichenwald, Vanity Fair Editor and tentacle erotica enthusiastlamented that “America died [last Friday night].” He then urged Millennials to “move away if you can.” Michael Moore, who makes his living fundamentally misunderstanding terms such as capitalism, fascism, and cowardbellowed on Twitter that “The Republican Party is the enemy of the American people” and that “[Their] coup is underway.” Not to let himself be outdone by the aforementioned alarmists, economist Larry Summers and Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, predicted that 10,000 people will die should this tax bill become law.

“When every hill is a ‘hill to die on,’ especially in the most free and prosperous society to ever exist, apocalyptic pleas will fall on deaf ears.”

I am reminded of two folktales in particular: “Chicken Little” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” In the former, a hysteric hen frantically squawks that “the sky is falling” after an acorn falls on her head. She embarks on a journey set on warning everyone about the apocalyptic lie she had convinced herself to be true. In regards to this tax bill, the doomsayers resemble Chicken Little in both their insistence that this particular bill is the Grimm Reaper in paper form, and that a political loss will serve as America’s version of the Visigoths sacking of Rome. Yet this mentality has not been limited solely to tax reform, and that brings us to that latter folktale.

In his insatiable desire for attention, a shepherd boy decided it appropriate to call for help to fend off a wolf attacking his herd. There was no wolf, and so the villagers who came to help were disgruntled for being lied to. Thanks to his antics, the shepherd boy, upon facing a real wolf, was eaten along with his herd. He had worn out his credibility just as the doomsayers who claimed a Donald Trump presidency would usher in a Third Reich-like era for America — or that repealing Obamacare would kill thousands — will wear out theirs, if they have not already.

When every hill is a “hill to die on,” especially in the most free and prosperous society to ever exist, apocalyptic pleas will fall on deaf ears. Each “side” has been guilty of this in recent time. The left on healthcare, taxes, and net neutrality seem to be the bell-ringers of late. But just under a decade ago, many on the right insisted that Barack Obama was not an American citizen and with him would come Sharia Law. But here we are, and here America still stands. Just as the tinfoil hatters are ridiculed for their annual insistence that Hellfires will consume all that is living, the political doomsayers should be ignored. When hysteric accusations take place of tempered discourse on the merits of legislation, The Crucible seems to be the set rules by which we conduct ourselves, rather than Robert’s famous procedural handbook.

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  • TZ

    Tax codes can be understood by a layman, with just a little training and effort. Then they can work at H&R Block.
    Here is a handy link:
    https://www.irs.gov/privacy-disclosure/tax-code-regulations-and-official-guidance#irc

    Just use the search engine and look up what ever you want to understand.

    This doesn’t mean I claim anyone can be an tax attorney or advisor, just that the length and detail of the code isn’t burdensome.