Welcome to Bizarro World

Any of you folks (besides me) old enough to remember Bizarro World? Back in the day it was a DC Comics alt-version of the Superman comic book series. Bizarro World was a cube-shaped planet where everything was the opposite of the version of Earth portrayed in the standard Superman comics. Alt-Superman went by the name “Bizarro.” Batman was “Batzarro.” They and all the other DC superheroes were the bad guys. Bizarro Joker—the only rational character in Bizarro World—ceaselessly wept instead of laughing maniacally.

I feel you, Bizarro Joker. I feel your pain.

Following a long string of embarrassing legislative fails, the GOP tax bill is grinding its way through the congressional reconciliation process, squaring the Senate and House versions. Barring the tendency of Congressional Republicans to march on their own collective pecker, it’ll soon be on Trump’s desk and he’ll sign it into law.

The whole deal seems so upside-down to me. So Bizarro World.

This morning I read an article in the NY Times describing who will feel the pain with this tax plan. Not surprisingly, it’s blue-state folks who make good livings who get stung the most—a cohort of taxpayers who are Democrats by large majorities. They get stung because the blue states tend to have higher state income taxes, and the GOP plan eliminates the SALT deduction (the deduction against your federal tax bill for state and local taxes paid).

Now, as a rule, blue states already pay more to the federal government in taxes and fees than they get back. Red states, on the other hand, are revenue vampires. (The same is true of California counties.) On balance, the red states talk a good game when it comes to states’ rights, self-reliance, and small federal gum’mint, but it’s always with their beggars’ palms extended. (Remind anyone of our local U.S. congressman?)

SALT deductions in highly taxed blue states mitigate that situation to some degree. Not enough to come anywhere close to doing away with blue America heavily subsidizing red America, but in part. SALT deductions take some of the edge off the burden of keeping the red states in rent, food, and walking-around money.

Getting rid of SALT is just power politics, you Republicans say? It’s just a little “we won, screw you” comeuppance? “Elections have consequences, so just chill,” to paraphrase our last president when Republicans were freaking out about Obamacare. So yeah, I hear you.

But here’s the thing: Obamacare was 100% consistent with Obama’s liberal Democrat ideals. Isn’t this raiding of state revenues and power anathema to everything the GOP supposedly stands for? Isn’t this Bizarro World?

Eliminating the SALT deduction sends more of California’s money to Washington DC, where its distribution and use will be decided by the President and Congress. That’s less money staying put here in California, where it would have been available not only to state and local government, but more so to the private sector. It will exert enormous pressure on California’s legislature to provide tax relief to upper middle class taxpayers hit hardest by SALT, possibly strangling state revenues. And finally, the extra money being sent to DC means less discretionary money to spend locally, which in turn means a hit to both local small businesses and local sales tax revenues. The whole scheme is absolutely designed to shift a large share of California’s state and local tax revenues and fiscal control to the federal government.

Further, eliminating SALT increases blue state subsidies to red states. It’s state-to-state parasitism, encouraged by the GOP-controlled Congress. It penalizes successful and revenue-generating states like our own California, shifting even more of our money to the flop, slothful, ass-backward states.

I haven’t even touched on how the GOP tax plan is going to increase deficit spending and the federal debt, which also seem anathema to conservative principles. But by now we’re used to cutting taxes and running up the nation’s credit cards to keep the party going, right? Standard Reagan Revolution stuff. Old hat.

Excuse my rhyme: What’s new is “screw the blue with a revenue coup.”

I gotta ask: How in God’s name is this whole shiteree in any way consistent with conservative, fiscally responsible, stand-on-your-own-two-feet GOP principles?

I can only conclude: We are miles beyond conservative principles meaning anything at all. It’s about winning, sticking it to the losers, and increasing the wealth of the über-wealthy.

So, what to do? As the renowned 19th-century British philosopher Ben Dover put it: “Close your eyes and think of England.” I don’t know if that’ll work for Californians, but it’s worth a try.

Steve Towers

Steve Towers is co-owner of a local environmental consultancy. After obtaining his Ph.D. from UC Davis and dabbling as a UCD lecturer, he took a salary job with a Sacramento environmental firm. Sitting in stop-and-go traffic on Highway 50 one afternoon, he reckoned that he was receiving 80 hours of paid vacation per year and spending 520 hours per year commuting to and from work. He and his wife Elise sold their house and moved to Redding three months later, and have been here for more than 20 years. His hobbies include travel, racquet sports, taking the dogs on hikes, and stirring pots. He can be reached at towers.steven@gmail.com

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