Chris Honoré: Above all — the tax bill
Ostensibly we have a representative government. We hold elections with the intention of sending men and women of two parties to Washington who will represent the will of their constituents.
But if we are paying even a modicum of attention to what the majority party — the Republicans — are about, it soon becomes clear that it is their intent to disregard the will of the people (not just Republicans). Instead they are doing whatever it takes to promote their agenda and to use their legislative power to fulfill their ideological wish list while serving their mega-donors.
This is not democracy as conceived by the framers.
As an example — the most recent — consider the much discussed (if little debated) tax bill that started in the House and has now passed the Senate (it will once again return to the House). This bill will make sweeping changes for all Americans. It was written by Republicans behind closed doors and has been on a super fast track. There has been no bipartisan debate, no hearings held. There has been a sense of desperation about its passage, an urgency that still continues. Insisting that it is a tax cut for the middle class is pure fantasy. The beneficiaries are corporations and the wealthy while it will blow a hole in the deficit by close to a trillion dollars. Remarkably, the Republicans will argue the opposite but press on, knowing that Trump will sign whatever bill they send him. He wants a win.
This bill also demonstrates a level of cynicism that is astonishing. When the deficit once again becomes a Republican concern, they will diminish the safety net — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — as a way to make up for the revenues lost when they passed this initial bill. But then, in truth, the GOP has, for decades, yearned to rid the budget of the safety net, having always viewed it as a government giveaway for the undeserving.
But getting back to our democracy. Close to 50 percent of Americans are not in favor of this tax bill, a fact the Republicans are aware of but choose to disregard. Find below some issues that do concern the nation:
Americans are concerned about the opioid epidemic and eager to see the government define it as a crisis. Meanwhile, though the Trump administration and Congress have claimed to be concerned about this rolling tragedy, killing some 100 people each week, little if any funds have been allotted for its remediation.
There are some 700,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) individuals waiting to hear whether Congress and the White House will grant them permanent residence in America or subject them to deportation. The fact that this has not been resolved is cruel beyond words.
Victims of Harvey, Irma and Maria as well as the western wildfires wait for billions in aid, which has yet to be released by Congress.
And then there is gun control. A majority of Americans believe that background checks should be mandatory and Las Vegas is one more reminder.
Nine million children’s health care depends on the Children’s Health Insurance Program. They have been living with the uncertainty of whether CHIP funds will be renewed. Congress has done nothing to date and some states have recently sent out letters warning CHIP participants that after Jan. 31 the program may run out of money.
The above are a few examples of issues that are regarded as priorities by the public, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study; they continue to be ignored by the Republican Congress as well as the administration.
I confess that as I watch Donald Trump fly down to Mar-a-Lago or to one of his golf courses I once again conclude that in truth he doesn’t care. Not about opioids, not about Puerto Rico. I often have the thought that he doesn’t want to be president — meaning doing all of the homework required to do the job. He would rather ride manicured golf courses in a cart or check his balance sheet from one of his hotels. Republicans are, of course, content to let him do just that.
— Chris Honoré of Ashland is a Daily Tidings columnist.