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McCain should be a patriot, stop tax giveaway to wealthy

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By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
Syndicated Columnists

Saturday, December 2, 2017

WASHINGTON — Where have all the patriots gone? But gone they are, and the country is on the verge of becoming a plutocracy. Not since the Age of the Robber Barons have such a wealthy few wielded such power. And they are in the process of using that power to gain what else? More power. More wealth. Yet, one man could make the difference.

He is one of 11 Republican senators who have voiced qualms about the huge tax giveaway to the wealthy now being rushed through Congress. That man is Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — maybe.

The other 10 all want something. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker wants a mechanism that would trigger a tax increase if the cost of the tax bill exceeds the $1.4 trillion OK’d under budget rules. (The Senate’s parliamentarian has ruled Coker’s request violates Senate rules.)    

Maine Senator Susan Collins wants the property tax reduction restored up to $10,000, and she wants some health care fixes before she can vote for the bill. Each of the GOP holdouts requires something different to get their vote.

President Trump says yes to every demand before him, and leaves it to congressional leaders to square the circle. Republicans are so desperate to pass tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy that not one Republican senator — not even McCain — has said what needs to be said: this bill will increase the yawning income gap between the wealthy and everyone else.

Non-partisan analysts and economists across the board say cutbacks in the social safety net, education and health care will disproportionately impact middle and lower-income earners while high earners and corporations reap the benefits. The New York Times headline on Thursday said: “G.O.P. Plan Could Reshape Life in the U.S. More Inequality Likely.”

The bill has been crafted without any input from Democrats, and with no congressional hearings to examine the GOP’s premise that it will generate higher growth and jobs, and not blow up the deficit beyond the $1.4 trillion, which is already staggering.

This era of political greed began with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which opened the floodgates for unregulated corporate and special interest money. That decision gutted the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 known as McCain-Feingold (co-sponsored by Republican McCain and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc.) had placed limits on campaign contributions. In the wake of the Citizens United decision, President Barack Obama responded: “With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections.”

In an instant a donor class was created, and it elected the GOP Congress in 2010. Six years later, it captured the presidency, and this tax package is the payback.

This is a moment made for Senator McCain who stepped in at the last minute to save the country and his party from a disastrous health care bill, in large part because it had not gone through traditional Senate scrutiny, or “regular order.” This tax giveaway to donors is every bit as deserving to go down in defeat.

McCain has nothing to lose. He’s not running for re-election, he has brain cancer, he’s a war hero, and he has more than earned the right to speak truth to power. Further, his history of bipartisanship conjures up images of the Founding Fathers and the founding principles of the nation.

Yet in a statement Thursday he signaled his support for the bill, saying, “I believe this legislation, though far from perfect, would enhance American competitiveness, boost the economy, and provide long overdue tax relief for middle class families.” The strangest aspect of this is that he spoke before amendments to the bill were even considered and contested, so it is unclear what he is supporting or why.

Yet, there is still time for McCain to cement his reputation as a maverick, and a patriot who puts party above country. He has come through before, and it’s not hard to imagine him coming to the Senate floor and saving the country once again.

This tax bill, which is well understood by the voters, has an approval rating of under 30 percent. So, as he casts his vote, McCain might want to keep in mind another Arizonan, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whose legacy of patriotic impartiality was forever tarnished in 2000 when she cast the deciding vote in Bush v. Gore, a vote that halted the Florida vote recount and catapulted George W. Bush to the presidency. For the first time a president was elected by a Supreme Court vote.

It is legacy time, Senator McCain.

U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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