Colson: A little bit of light in our long, dark tunnel | AspenTimes.com

Colson: A little bit of light in our long, dark tunnel

John Colson
Hit and Run

I read awhile ago that our president (He Who Shall Not Be Named) and one of his chief henchmen may actually be cooking up a proposal to raise taxes on the wealthiest people in the U.S., which might end up being a boon to those of us who depend on the government in any way — whether for health care, untrammeled outdoor spaces where we can get back to nature, or energy security as the world weathers the worst effects of climate change.

The henchman in question, by the way, is the inestimable Steve Bannon, formerly of the toxic online news site called Breitbart, and it is Bannon who has been putting together a plan to "raise taxes on the richest people in America and give tax cuts to the people who need them," according to a mention in Maureen Dowd's column in The New York Times.

The scoop originally came from one Jonathan Swan, a blogger on the Axios news site, founded by news activists from the Politico organization and one that I would count among my trusted sources for information about the world at large.

According to Swan, Bannon has been "pushing" his idea recently, although apparently the exact details of the proposed tax hike are not known. Swan reported that Bannon has been quoted as saying "he wants the top income tax bracket to have a four in front of it." Currently, the top bracket is 39.6 percent for Americans earning more than about $400,000 per year, according to online sources.

That means Bannon is looking for a rather small tax hike in relative terms — 0.4 percent — but one that could have serious repercussions in the politics of Washington, D.C.

In fact, the wolves already are circling, following confirmation of Bannon's plan by Fox News. Disinformation Minister in Chief Sean Spicer, he who has been suspiciously absent from recent White House news briefings, reportedly came out of hiding to deny the whole story.

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"The report is not an accurate representation of Steve's thinking," Fox quoted Spicer as saying.

But unnamed sources within the Trump administration seemingly have denied the veracity of Spicer's denial, according to Fox, at least far enough to confirm that Bannon is trying to steer the president in a new direction on tax reform.

Now, I normally would not rely on Fox News for anything approaching truthfulness in reporting the national news, but the network seems to be making an effort to provide something other than the usual Republican talking points, misogynistic blather and outright falsehoods masquerading as news.

But this report, by John Roberts and Serafin Gomez (two of Fox's national correspondents), appears to be a fairly straightforward account. At least it corresponds with other online reports.

And the original scoop by Axios indicates that at least two of the president's top economic advisors — investment banker Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin — have seemed to be very nervous lately. Cohn apparently has been telling anyone who will listen that tax reform as promised by the administration (meaning, massive tax breaks for the very wealthy, paid for by massive cuts to Medicaid and other federal programs) must be tackled and accomplished immediately or it will never happen.

And, according to one of those unnamed sources, if Cohn doesn't get his way, he'll quit. Meaning he'll walk away from the White House and never look back. Or some such folderol.

Both Cohn and Mnuchin, of course, are determined to hew to the line laid out by the president during last year's campaign and in tweets and other remarks since the election — it's time to cut the highest tax rate down to 15 percent or lower.

They claim that if this reform becomes law, the very rich will quit taking advantages of the many loopholes that allow them to get away with tax bills lower than those paid by their maids and chauffeurs.

And that, according to this fantasy, would alleviate the fears of Democrats, working people in general and the leftist side of our political spectrum in specific, who argue that giving tax breaks to the rich will simply transfer more wealth to the top 1 percent (or 10 percent, if you prefer) and put the burden of paying for government operations on the shoulders of those who can least afford it — the diminishing middle class — and at the same time eliminate a huge portion of the money the federal government collects each year to run its programs.

Ultimately, this get-poor-quick scheme is intended to kill off the "activist" (meaning leaning to the progressive, humanist, compassionate side of things) federal government that has long been the target of the Republican and libertarians among us, who firmly (if erroneously) believe that the free market will take care of all of us if we just give it a chance.

I'm not quite ready to sign off on a "Bannon's not so bad" greeting card, but I take this news as a healthy sign that at least someone is realizing that having our president act like a hapless, fumbling Darth Vader all the time is not doing the president, or his putative party, any good at all.

And that might be a good thing.

Email at jbcolson51@gmail.com.

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