Passage of the GOP/Trump “tax scam” bill that pretends to aid the middle class while tilting the tax system more than ever to the benefit of the super-wealthy and corporations was the nail in the coffin of the Donald Trump/GOP populist charade of 2016. In 2018, plutocracy is once again the rule of the day.

Plutocracy is government by the wealthy. Populism is support for the concerns of ordinary people. The historical difference between Republican and Democratic parties is that the GOP has been seen as representing the wealthy while Democrats represent “little people.”

Trump’s 2016 election broke down that dichotomy, as Trump sold himself as someone looking out for the little guy. He called for higher taxes on the wealthy elite; said he’d stop billionaire hedge fund managers from paying a lower tax rate than you. He pledged to protect Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid; pledged to provide health care for everyone with better benefits at less cost. He said he’d “drain the D.C. swamp” where the power elite and their lobbyists reigned supreme.

Trump tapped into populist anger that focused on changing the political/economic playing field and tax laws that had been tilted to the disadvantage of regular people, while the wealthy elite and corporations got away with murder. Trump yelling “drain the swamp” stimulated populist anger against the powerful and advantaged “elite” who had expensive K-Street lobbyists who made sure their wealthy benefactors, the large corporations and special interests always came out on top.

In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, enough disaffected Democratic, populist-oriented, blue-collar voters, along with many populist Independents, provided a narrow margin to Trump, producing his small Electoral College edge. Without a combined total of 108,573 voters in those states buying his populist pitch, Trump would have lost the Electoral College by 10.

So, how has populist America fared with Trump at the helm for the last year? Let’s check the tax scam bill, his primary accomplishment, for particulars.

2016 Trump pledged to protect Medicare and Social Security and provide comprehensive quality health care. Trump’s tax scam included a $25 billion cut in Medicare and Affordable Care Act changes that will result in 13 million fewer insured and premiums up an extra 10 percent. And, the Children’s Health Insurance Program has yet to be permanently re-enacted.

2016 Trump would close all tax loopholes he’d used for years; he and his elite friends would pay more taxes because they’d had all the breaks in the past. 2016 Trump would bring huge tax cuts to “forgotten Americans” — the middle class. But tax scam Trump gave corporations a 40 percent permanent tax break, while the small middle-class cuts were temporary — over time, they’d pay more taxes, not less. Meanwhile, the Trump family gains up to a billion dollars. Hedge fund managers still have their loophole. By the end of 10 years, everyone earning under $75,000 will be paying more taxes while 83 percent of the tax cuts go to the richest 1 percent — to the “elite.” Trump’s “forgotten Americans” are still forgotten.

And the debt? In 2016, Trump said he’d stop us “borrowing from China,” but his scam bill creates $1.5 trillion of debt which will have to be borrowed. Meanwhile, GOP leadership is already planning to “reform,” aka “cut,” Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to make up for that $1.5 trillion.

Everyone, including right-thinking Republicans, know the bottom line: the “elites” are still getting richer while the rest of us suck air.

So much for 2016’s Trump/GOP “populism.” In 2018, we’re back to GOP “normalcy.” We’re still a plutocracy where the rich win out. The populist charade is over.

Evan Barrett, who lives in historic Uptown Butte, recently retired after 47 years at the top level of Montana economic development, government, politics and education. 

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