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The Daily Devil’s Dictionary: “Dismayed” by Tax Law

Republicans are upset over the public response to their new tax law.

After a Gallup poll revealed that a majority of Americans were disappointed by President Donald Trump’s vaunted tax cuts, Yahoo conducted a flash poll to understand why. They were surprised by the lucidity of the criticism they heard, especially when it came from Republicans.

They also cited the reaction of the legislators themselves. “Republicans in Washington are so dismayed by the tax law’s unpopularity that they’re considering another round of tax cuts, although passage seems unlikely.”

Here is today’s 3D definition:

Dismayed:

Feeling confused and disappointed by a negative result to the point of resolving to add to the confusion by doubling down

Contextual note

Tax cuts are an article of religious faith for conservative establishment Republicans. They literally believe in an imaginary mechanical cause and effect between lower taxes and economic growth. As with all beliefs of this kind, they are inclined to think those who don’t share the belief are among the unenlightened. History may contradict the belief, but their conviction that it is a case of simple logic cannot be shaken. After all, lower taxes for those who are capable of investing means a better chance that they will invest. As a pure syllogism, it works. As an historical truth, it fails, and for reasons that are equally as logical, but embedded in the complexity of human activity.

The three reasons for doubt that emerged from the poll were these: “People think the tax cuts favor the wealthy over the middle and working class. They’re suspicious that tax cuts for businesses are permanent but tax cuts for individuals are temporary. And they think it’s irresponsible to finance the tax cuts with debt that future workers will have to shoulder.”

The critics — from across the political spectrum — have understood that the real economy is more than just a simplistic pseudo-logical theory. The establishment sages have failed — voluntarily of course — to include two obvious truths in their theory: That the economy is essentially a power structure, in which some will take advantage of others simple because they can do so; and it is a psychological game about how money circulates, with complex behavioral rules.

Interestingly, the citizen critics take into account the long term, the problem of future generations. The politicians consider only the short term and assume that if you reduce taxes people will vote for you. We should notice that both neglect the most serious aspect of taxes: what they pay for. The answer is public services and infrastructure, everything that makes social life possible. But those considerations have long been banished from most people’s minds in the United States.

Historical note

The Republican Party and its “fiscal conservatives” have always preached the gospel of tax cuts based on what they consider to be three moral axioms.

The first is the most complex and strategic. Taxes enable government to function; the more taxes you levy, the bigger your government will be. Big government is bad and so lower taxes are good because they reduce the size of government.

The second is more brutal and pretends to be derived from sociological science. Clever people find ways of making money. Very clever people make more money than others. Taxing them discourages them from being clever. Lower taxes are, therefore, about motivation to do clever and constructive things.

The third is closer to a logical syllogism and is supposedly psychological. All intelligent people like to have more money. Taxes take some of their money away. All intelligent people, therefore, hate taxes and must be relieved when they are lowered.

The easy conclusion from both premises is: taxes are bad, high taxes are worse. Ipso facto, politicians who push through tax cuts will be popular.

The problem is that a nation requires many stabilizing factors to maintain social equilibrium. As Milton Friedman himself loved to repeat, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Neither is there such a thing as a free democracy, but the Cato Institute where he was speaking in this video refused to take that further logical step. The religious quality of these theorists’ belief shines through in the video, which was shot in the equivalent of their cathedral.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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