A Temporary Setback on the Way to a Just America

Marc Stier |

The Trump-GOP tax cut bill, which passed the House on a party-line vote with twelve Republicans voting against this afternoon and is likely to pass the Senate tonight, reminds us that history does not move in a straight line. There are moments, like this one, in which America takes a step away from its promise of equality and justice for all. A combination of ideological zealotry, partisan extremism, and financial power has given us legislation that will cut taxes for the richest Americans while ultimately raising taxes and insurance premiums for working people and the middle-class and taking health insurance away from 13 million people. Wall Street will benefit, but the rest of us will be harmed by higher taxes, insurance premiums, deficits, and interest rates, and, if the Republicans have their way, deep cuts to the social safety net.

This legislation will ultimately rank in the same category as the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Fugitive Slave Law, and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, laws that betrayed our highest principles and that were made at the behest of a narrow and self-interested minority that used chicanery and deception to convince others to follow them. Whether political and economic crisis follows in the wake of this legislation, like these others, will ultimately depend on whether the vast majority of Americans rise up to challenge the forces that have led to it passing today.

The tides of history will turn again when that happens. Because of the amazing outpouring of activism and energy in opposition to this legislation, we expect it sooner rather than later. Our failure to move any Republicans in Pennsylvania to oppose the bill is not due to lack of effort. And all that effort did have an incredibly important impact: while the dark forces in this country were powerful enough to pass this legislation, the work activists did in opposing the bill in social media and on the streets has had a dramatic impact on public understanding of it. This tax cut is opposed by a large majority of the public. It is opposed by a larger percentage of people than those who opposed tax increases in the past. Despite the lies and deceptions of the Republicans, most Americans understand exactly what this legislation is.

Continuing that effort with our many allies will help us set America back on course towards equality and justice for all. In the near future we will stand up against any cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps. Later, we will repeal this disastrous legislation and move forward other programs that help us realize our ideals.

There are no guarantees in history, either that we can avoid temporary setbacks or that we will ultimately be successful in raising this world up to meet our ideals. All we can do is keep working together with hope and with faith that we will ultimately succeed. That so many of us share that hope and faith make us optimistic about the future.