On the same day that the House passed their version of tax “reform,” it was announced that the Trump administration is lifting an Obama-era ban on the importation of ivory and other elephant body parts from Zimbabwe and Zambia. The ban was meant to eliminate demand and thereby help to protect this threatened species. Who wouldn’t want that, right? The rationale for declaring hunting season for elephants open again, according to US Fish & Wildlife, is that allowing wealthy trophy hunters to pay for killing elephants will raise more money for conservation programs. So killing more elephants will generate money to protect elephants (assuming those hunting fees actually end up in conservation efforts and not the pockets of corrupt officials)! I’m sure all the dead elephants will appreciate that their sacrifice was not in vain.
This way of thinking is a metaphor, although imperfect, for the GOP tax plan. Higher taxes for working families and ultimately for the middle class (after a temporary modest reduction) in order to benefit the wealthy— including huge permanent tax cuts for corporations— is supposed to generate more growth for the economy. According to an already-disproven theory, the accumulation of wealth in the top 1% will trickle down to help everyone else. It hasn’t happened before, and even prospectively, corporations are not planning on spending more capital to “grow the economy.” These tax cuts will not pay for themselves, as the GOP claims. The plan also explodes the federal debt, placing entitlement programs such as Medicare in danger, along with tax breaks for having children, for tuition, for mortgage interest, for state and local taxes, university endowments— all for a plan which will “pay for itself.” And while the Senate is at it, why not launch yet another torpedo at the Affordable Care Act? The zombie rises again (see my previous “Kill Bill” posts), and when they tacked elimination of the individual health coverage mandate onto the bill (which would remove health coverage from 13 million people and raise premiums for everyone else), I thought that would be the death knell for this tax proposal; after all, Repeal and Replace in its various guises had failed so many times before. But now, because of shrewd maneuvering in Congress, I’m not so sure.
In my mind is the image of a vast elephant graveyard, abandoned by wealthy conservation programs. More money, it turns out, does not help the dead elephants. Nor does it help those who will bear the tax burden and feel the pain under this GOP bill, in order to make the rich even richer. The elephant graveyard, in that case, might well be Congress, in the aftermath of the 2018 midterm elections.