First pants. Then shoes.
The wisdom of this core principle has successfully guided dressing practices since the dawn of pants and enjoys the rare distinction of almost complete bipartisan support. It’s also noteworthy, that since its inception, this adage has almost entirely eradicated all incidences of post traumatic dress disorder. Most important, the purity of its logic serves as a foundational cornerstone for a broad range of principles that guide our evolutionary survival, as well as our practices of reasoned debate and discourse.
It predates “look before you leap.” It’s at the root of sequences such as close lid before blending, open flue before igniting, secure hatch before submerging, don parachute before in-flight egress, and “power off” prior to reaching in to unjam the wood chipper.
The current Republican tax bill is 559 pages long, excluding a 10-page amendment entitled “ESTIMATED BUDGET EFFECTS OF THE CONFERENCE AGREEMENT FOR H.R. 1, THE “TAX CUTS AND JOBS ACT”’ and with the words “VERY PRELIMINARY” posted in the upper right hand corner. It is actually not a bill in and of itself, but a blizzard of amendments to be made to the roughly 2600 plus pages of the 1986 tax code.
I have read only 50 pages of the compromise bill which is 93 pages longer than the original Senate version of just a few days prior. I understood 10% of what I read. OK, 5%. I have not read a single page of the 1986 Tax Code nor cross referenced any of the new amendments proposed. While not remotely gifted in mathematics or accounting, I can report with great confidence that there is less than a 2% probability that a single member of the House or Senate has done any of those things – read all 559 pages, decoded the 10-page amendment, cross referenced changes, and calculated the outcome on any scale other than hope and a prayer. As for Trump, given there are not any pictures, the probability plummets to absolute zero.
Yet this deficiency in reading and comprehension hasn’t stopped the President, our “legislators,” cable news, or most of “we the people” from voicing passionate and entrenched perspectives regarding the legislation. Even more terrifying is the leap from the hurling of opinions to the casting of votes, the “leap before the look.” Based almost entirely on hearsay and with an urgency usually reserved for someone trying to apply a tourniquet above a severed limb, Republicans in Congress have abandoned Pants v. Shoes and are frenetically racing to vote this unread act, one of the most pivotal bills of our generation, into law.
Yes, as Republican pundits wildly pontificate, a tax code of 2600 pages begs for simplification. Equally as obvious, they rail, is the fact our government spends too much, as evidenced by every paycheck emaciated by state and federal taxes.
But those imperatives appear unrelated to the actual bill. Outside of permanent reductions to corporate and high income tax rates, it’s hard to glean any simplicity gained through the maze of 559 pages of amendments. In fairness, I did confirm Republican claims that the compromise “reduces” the almost impenetrable number of tax brackets from 7 to the more manageable number of, well, 7.
I found no mention of a curb on government spending or the plugging of tax loopholes. By the few who have actually taken a swing at the math, even conservative projections suggest the federal deficit will actually inflate (sorry kids) by another $1.5 trillion over 10 years. To put that in context for jazz musicians, that amounts to 37,500,000,000 club dates paying $40/man/night. Moving up the social ladder, it would take a middle class family earning $60,000 a year 25 million years to pay off that debt.
Emboldened by the premise that no one will take the time or have the time to read the bill, it appears Republicans are stampeding toward passage based solely on the precarious promise of trickle-down economics, corralled and encouraged with a wink, windfall, and nudge from corporate muscle. The facts may not support the theory, but reams of assumptions rooted solidly on hope imply it has obvious potential. They paraphrase Newton, that all things trickle down and for evidence, direct us toward the trends of the presidency.
Corporations will convert their newly found profits directly into employee bonuses and benefits as surely as Trump’s aversion to reading has been adopted by law makers. Our president’s chauvinistic stand against what he views as the frigid fist of feminism has flowed to and freed emasculated men everywhere, unleashing his preferred natural order of sexism. He has illuminated the forgotten “plights of whites.” Where bullies and Nazis were once shamed into the shadows, his tweets have served as beacons of liberation, exposing morality, political correctness, inclusion, and the convoluted process of reasoned discourse for what the White House decries as intellectual burdens and unadulterated wastes of time.
His “courageous” words and deeds flow down to states, municipalities, then evangelists and supremacists, expunging what he and his base deem the most egregious forms of segregation. Church and state, facts and fiction, party and country, truths and lies, means and ends, morals and expediency, Presidency and profits – each pair merging into a perfect union of unarguable ambiguity.
As with the merits and pitfalls of the compromise tax bill, House and Senate Republicans can celebrate that the practice of setting policy has finally been reduced to the frequency and volume of the shouted word.
Though few will be able to read the accounts, history will undoubtedly record that just as our morals, civic duty, literacy, accountability, and respectful dialogue trickled to ever lower depths, so followed our economy. To an even greater degree than Rome in 64 AD or the coal industry, ours is surely a financial future that will burn brightly.
Their boots are laced, and they run in downward spirals with their pants buttoned over their heads.