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The Great Tax Heist and “The General Welfare”

Anna Wrobel
December 22, 2017

by Anna Wrobel

THE TAX THEFT being perpetrated by Republicans will create little that is living, but will instead produce a growing austerity. The big winners will continue to siphon our public treasury for private gain at ever greater speed and volume, with no legal compulsion that the wealthiest receivers do anything constructive for the economy nor for a wide distribution of prosperity.

Many of them make far more fortune on debt and bankruptcy than on creative economic development.

Yet the Founders laid down, in the Preamble to the Constitution, a commitment “to promote the general welfare.” The phrase was repeated in the taxation clause: to “provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” In a democracy we are sure to differ on what this means, but the Founders intended that we take the responsibility seriously, in every generation.

In seriousness, I ask the average earner if this tax reform — in my candid view, tax theft— “promotes the general welfare,” your own, your children’s, your community’s, be it rural, urban or somewhere between? In fact, this tax legislation is prima facie evidence that those at the top do not care if along the way you and your family lose shelter, go hungry, or sicken and die. In the Christmas spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge, the likes of the Kochs and Mercers and Trumps would just as soon “decrease the surplus population.”

We need to have a national conversation about what the Founders meant when they tied the promise “to promote the general welfare” to that of “securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Only in commonwealth can the liberty of all be secured, not just the liberty of those who can pay big bucks for it. This tax heist, the grandest in history, will “trickle down” little but misery. But its passage doesn’t mean our conversation about it has to end. To the contrary, no matter who you voted for, no matter your political party, it’s time to have conversations with every parent, teacher, friend, relative and congenial stranger. Parent to parent, human to human, American to American, let’s talk about the quality of our children’s lives and the basic material needs of all Americans, now and generations hence.

Whatever tax cut you get will be less in value than our own public services soon to be denied. Our tax cuts will expire while those of the wealthiest will be permanent. Do the math: After giving us minor cuts for nine or ten years, our taxes will increase just in time to pay for the trillion-dollar deficit this tax “reform” will create. That deficit and that tax increase will come out of the hides of our children’s world, whatever’s left of it.

As Chief Seattle so eloquently stated: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” Let’s make sure there’s something left for them to inherit and to borrow.

Anna Bat-Chai Wrobel, a contributing writer to our magazine, is a recently retired history teacher and the author of Marengo Street: Selected Poems (2012, Moon Pie Press).