Congressional Proposals are Moving from Bizarre to Tragically Depressing

Source: NY Times

Little Rock There is just no pretense any more about whether Republican proposals are seeking to serve the entire population. There is posturing and prevarication for sure, but shame has left Washington, leaving hardly a blush mark.

There’s always a last ditch hope that a miracle might unravel the freight train tax bill, but hope is not a plan, and the whistle seems to be blowing loudly for all of us worried about someone other than the rich and corporate interests, we better dive off the track.

Nobody really, really truly knows all of what is in this tax bill, including the Senators who are voting for it. Frankly, that should not only say it all, but say, enough, and hold your darned horses. Instead, what we know is horrific. It would be one thing if it simply helped the rich and corporations. That’s hardly news from this Congress, and that’s been happening for years and years at this point, Administration to Administration, including both Democrats and Republicans. It’s how we became one of the most unequal societies among advanced countries in the world, right?

But, this bill doesn’t involve the usual shell game of moving things out of sight and under a different cup. This bill in fact hurts much of the middle class, no matter what the posturing and pretense of its advocates. Worse, it seems the poorest parts of our society are being asked to pay these pikers. The health mandate is now about to become an odd victim of this tax bill and an unrelated amendment has been grafted unto the tax measure to eliminate the requirement and therefore the penalties paid for not having insurance, all of which could jeopardize the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans couldn’t get a majority to repeal, but by force feeding this amendment with tax giveaway to donors, they may get it done. The tax bill may also trigger huge reductions in Medicaid spending and other entitlements which also benefit lower income Americas. Treating student loans as income will hammer all of the lower and middle income students trying to get an education to better their lives without the resources of upper class families to simply sign the checks and move forward. This is unbelievable, except for one terrible fact: it’s true.

And, if it’s not one thing, it’s another up. We’re not giving away enough to the corporations so another amendment will allow drilling in the Arctic as an odd bit grafted onto this mess. Another bill will renege on the promise of student loan repayment for students who work in rural and depressed areas for nonprofits for ten years and allow predatory for profit institutions to gobble up more student dreams and their dollars. The FCC is trying to eviscerate net neutrality which could be the end of the internet as we know it now. And on and on and on.

Meanwhile Trump tweets as a tactical diversion so that people are watching his clown show while Congress and his cabinet heads gut one program after another that were designed to protect or advance Americans.

Resistance doesn’t describe what’s needed now. It’s gone from bizarre to depressing. No one could have made this stuff up.


Real Estate Developers Play and Never Seem to Have to Pay

Greenville   Our union signed a contract with the Regional Transit Authority in New Orleans or rather its management company, TransDev, yesterday. They handle the business end of routes, accounts, and schedules for bus and trolley lines in the city. Reading the paper before triangulating a trip between Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee, I read an article about the burden of lower income workers and their commutes to work in New York City. This is all grist for our mill.

One takeaway from the article was pretty plainly presented. In summary, the New York Times reported on a 2013 study in New York City found that almost 800,000 residents commute more than an hour each way to work, most of them earning less than $35,000 per year. Black New Yorkers’ trips are 25% longer than whites and Hispanics travel 12% longer than whites. I was reminded of a quote from the Greek historian Thucydides writing about Athens hundreds of years ago: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.”

The reporter quoted a President of the New York City Council speaking over 100 years ago about the building of the subway system in the city. The main driver on the routes was the huge expected increase in property values along the lines. He argued that since real estate interests had lobbied for the project and were the ones benefiting, they, not just the public, should bear the costs. Obviously it didn’t happen then, and it hasn’t happened since. Another bunch of billions was recently spent extending a subway line there, and once again developers promoted, and the public paid. Meanwhile workers schlep to their lower paying jobs from farther distances because they can’t afford rents closer to work any longer, and they do so on buses in the slowest transportation system in the country for the most workers.

I wish the story were only about New York City, but increasingly the real estate interests and their supporters from the President on down, fueled by campaign contributions, push for more public expenditures that skew transportation towards tourism and away from workers, gentrify and jack up rents and eviction rates, forcing zombie work schedules, slow rolls, and hoopty rides to be thin ribbon holding people together between work and home all over the country. Developers dream and then sell out and run as fast as they can once the sticks are built so that some other sucker works the field, while property taxes rise, rents soar, and the public pays the bills.

How about that for a depressing cycle that we seem unable to break in city after city? We’re all prisoners to a national policy that no one owns or seems able to change, while we are all forced to pay for it, as Thucydides said because they can and, it seems, because we must.