To the Editor:
The editorial in the Dec. 28 Islander titled “Disagreement, Not Betrayal” fundamentally misstates problems with and objections to Susan Collins’ vote for the Republican tax bill.
The law is a massive rewrite of the tax code that will impact the lives of all Americans in an almost endless number of ways. The process for the creation of the bill was hyperpartisan, as is the impact of many of its provisions. It was written entirely by Republicans behind closed doors. There were no committee hearings, and there was zero consideration of the concerns of nearly half of the United States Senate.
It contains a pile of unrelated policies, like gutting aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and opening up the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. To secure votes, the authors threw in special deals like the one that will enrich Sen. Bob Corker and other commercial real estate developers, like the Trump family.
It was rushed through on a straight party-line vote in a nondeliberative fashion that was a parody of bad government. Sen. King commented that to call the process a circus was to give circuses a bad name. It was not possible for anyone, including Sen. Collins, to have studied the implications of the bill and make an informed decision.
There was nary a serious word of objection from Collins about the subversion of regular order in the legislative process in a manner consistent with editorial praise of her as bipartisan-seeking crafter of carefully considered decisions. No lament was heard from her about the exclusion of at least some Democrats who were entirely willing to support a tax cut bill that accommodated at least some of their concerns.
Collins previously declared the existence of several red lines with regard to the tax bill, and then blew past them to vote for it. She claims she made many changes to improve the bill. Most of these are just Senate promises to hold future votes on matters strongly opposed by many in her party, especially in the House. The rest are relatively insubstantial or not actually designed to do what she claims they will.
She retorted in condescending fashion that the anticipated tax refund to many Mainers might allow them to afford a car repair. In fact, the redistribution is massively skewed to only a small handful of already wealthy Mainers. She claims numerous Maine business leaders have assured her they will hire more people because of this tax bill. Her sources are a who’s who of campaign contributors who will benefit handsomely from the bill. They never need worry about a breakdown on the way to a low-wage job.
Collins seems to have adopted the very nonmoderate belief in so-called “dynamic scoring”: the notion that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations will unleash so much economic growth and productivity that it will wipe out the huge structural budget deficit the law will undeniably create. Despite right-wing economists and politicians banging on about this for decades, there is no credible historical or analytical evidence to support that argument.
Republicans, including Collins, are dismissing out of hand their own congressional analyses that don’t support their political objectives. That’s not careful legislating. And it sets up the party to make good on explicit, ideologically driven threats to slash programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid beginning this month, in the guise of needing to lower the very deficits they are creating.
The law contains provisions that further the persistent goal of Republicans to gut the ACA without providing a meaningful alternative. Sober analysis shows it will result in millions of people losing insurance coverage and premiums for everyone else rising. Earlier in 2017, the senator stated her goal for the ACA was to improve it and to increase the number of Mainers covered, not destroy it or cause people to lose access to affordable health care. She was rightly praised for her vote against earlier efforts to destroy the ACA. That does not give her a “get out of jail free” card for later votes that betray her stated positions.
The editorial attempts to supplant Collins’ voting record with her carefully crafted image. Collins has voted for Donald Trump’s extreme agenda and nominees over 80 percent of the time. If you look at the effects of many of the votes used to stake her claim to moderation, you will discern a pattern of voting against her party’s positions when it doesn’t matter and with her party in a decidedly nonmoderate manner when it does. Her votes on the nomination of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos are a clear example of that. There are many more.
It’s disappointing that the Islander seems more concerned about Collins’ image than about the lives of Mainers who will be so negatively affected by her vote for the tax bill. When you have to hand out style points to distract from a historically bad vote, you are standing on shaky ground. If your image of Collins is accurate, then citizens should expect better from her and have a legitimate right to express disappointment in her vote.
Many are paying much closer attention right now to what our government is doing to us.
The Islander might pause to reflect on the value of an engaged community in these times. We are not ever obliged to suffer the effects of our elected representatives’ votes in silence. We are not supplicants. We are citizens.