The so-called tax reform proposed by the Republicans in the US Congress is not a real reform in any shape or form. It is nothing less than a criminal conspiracy to loot the federal treasury and give the rewards to the wealthy. Renewables are just one casualty of the carnage this bill will create.
While giving new tax breaks to nuclear power — including two projects in Georgia that have already cost $25 billion but remain unfinished — the proposed bill would also open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. What a fine irony! The pollution caused by burning fossil fuels has warmed the Arctic enough to make other fossil fuel reserves more accessible.
The House bill would slash incentives for wind power and eliminate the federal tax credit for electric cars. The Senate bill would disrupt the market for renewable energy credits, raising the cost of financing renewables for developers. Now the competing bills will go through what is known as the reconciliation process. Representatives from both houses of Congress will sit down in a locked room out of public view and resolve the differences between the two bills. The New York Times points out that Senator Chuck Grassley, a staunch proponent of wind power, has been left off the Senate reconciliation team.
Anyone who thinks there is any reform of the US tax code taking place here is a fool. The bills are hundreds and hundreds of pages long. They do nothing to simplify the tax code. They merely add giveaways to powerful interests. The provisions that affect Mr. and Mrs. America take up at most a page or two. The rest of the legislation passes out a multiplicity of favors to wealthy campaign contributors.
The legislation as written will cost ordinary Americans a ton of money. In exchange for a few hundred dollars a year in lower taxes (a decrease that is only temporary), taxpayers will lose the ability to deduct home mortgage interest, state income taxes, and any property taxes on their homes above $10,000. Sadly, in America today, real estate taxes exceed $10,000 a year for a large number of people.
Then the tax legislation will eliminate the inheritance tax — a gift to America’s wealthiest individuals. The argument is that the value of an estate has already been taxed once. It is unfair to tax it twice. While it is dubious to claim that assets which have appreciated in value have been taxed at all, why is it okay to tax ordinary people struggling to make ends meet twice — once at the state level and again at the federal level — but not the richest Americans? The argument makes no sense.
This tax bill strips bare the lie behind the myth of American democracy. The government is now in the hands of a group of ideologues. There goal is not to govern — it is to slavishly follow the dictates of a privileged few and shower them with more power and more wealth. Donald Trump does not represent all Americans. He doesn’t even pretend to. His mission is to further fracture the citizenry into warring camps. He champions hatred, provides aid and comfort to white supremacist terrorists, demonizes entire nations and religions with one sweep of a very broad brush, and tirelessly works to use his office for personal gain and to benefit the billionaires class while taking from the masses.
The tax legislation, such as it is, reveals all to clearly one immutable truth. The dominant force in civilization is the quest for power. People say money and sex are what cause people to do what they do, but that’s incorrect. Power is what it’s all about. The framers of the US Constitution knew that. That’s why they created a three-way separation of powers scheme designed specifically to keep a permanent tension between the branches of government. What they feared most was the unification of national power in a monarch, having learned full well from George III and his predecessors what abuses flow from such an arrangement.
Sadly, the tools available to accomplish their purpose in the 18th century have been totally overwhelmed by the tools available to tyrants today. What we are witnessing in the United States now is a bunch of prostitutes posing as politicians. They work for their pimps — i.e., Koch Industries, Wall Street bankers, Big Pharma, etc. — instead of representing the people who elected them.
Psychologists are familiar with a game called Star Power. It is described as “a real time, face to face, non-computer based simulation game of an organization or system in which leaders are given unlimited powers to make and change the rules of the simulation.” To date, more than 3 million people have participated in a Star Power simulation.
I participated in a Star Power game years ago as part of an MPA program. I traded my way up to one of the 5 stars available and must confess that by the end of the class I was right in there with the other 4 “stars” constructing heinous and reprehensible strategies to maintain my status. The “have nots” in the experiment were close to armed rebellion by the time the class ended and there were many threats being shouted back and forth across the room. A perfect paradigm for America today, in other words.
We who assemble here on CleanTechnica know in our heart of hearts that burning fossil fuels is unsustainable. Not only are the emissions leading to a dangerously overheated environment, they are shortening lives and causing debilitating diseases. Only a lunatic would continue funding the extraction and use of fossil fuels. But lunatics are firmly in control of all the levers of power in American government. Using many of the same techniques employed by the privileged few in the Star Power game, they have subverted the checks and balances built into the Constitution and hijacked the government to expand their own wealth and increase their power.
Zero-emissions renewables — wind, solar, and hydro — face an implacable foe in the fossil fuel industry, whose leaders are content to sacrifice human lives in pursuit of profits. In a rational world, that would be a criminal offense, but we are not living in rational times. The question is whether America will come to its senses in time to avert a global disaster. Based upon the observable evidence, the answer is a resounding “No.” Unless and until a way is found to break the stranglehold of the oligarchs, America is on a downward trajectory and racing as fast as possible to the bottom.
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