When White People Riot: GOP Tax Reform

White people don’t riot. At least that’s the presumption of many white Americans, especially Trump supporters whose easily provoked fears have been fomented by decades of televised civil unrest and the urban wreckage at Ferguson, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and further back, Detroit and Watts.

But there’s a smash-and-grab underway in broad daylight, and it’s not at the Quikmart in Ferguson or Tom's Liquor at Normandie and Florence in L.A. One trillion dollars is about to pass out of the U.S. treasury and into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries of the Trump tax reform plan, according to the official congressional scorekeeper.

Related: Trump’s tax plan gives $520 billion to wealthy foreigners at the expense of American middle class

We associate looting with televised urban violence, because we can see it. After police in Ferguson, Missouri, left the body of Michael Brown in the street for nine hours, national television networks broke away to rioters burning and looting a Little Caesars, a Prime Beauty Supply, Sam’s Meat Market and other small businesses. The violence cost the town at least $5.7 million, according to local news reports.

After Baltimore cops couldn’t explain why Freddie Gray was tossed into a paddy wagon alive and found dead 20 minutes later in 2015, national television networks broke away and focused on looters and rioters, who ultimately caused between $9 million and $20 million in damages.

The mother of all riots in living memory cost Los Angeles $1 billion in 1992. Every minute of that three-day event was broadcast on live television. Images of black and brown people smashing and grabbing TVs, stereos and tennis shoes are seared into a generation of white suburbanite brains.

The urban riots have two things in common: they involve brown people and they were caught on camera.

When white people riot, it’s different. First, it costs a lot more. Second, it is not televised. When white people smash and grab, they do it from boardrooms, or Senate caucuses.

Take the Brooks Brothers Riot in Florida in 2000. Hundreds of Republican operatives, many of them lawyers in suits and Hermes ties, were flown to Florida at GOP expense to raid the Miami-Dade clerk’s office as it was about to recount ballots in the Bush-Gore election, aiming to “shut it down.”

They succeeded. The cost of that riot, just in terms of W’s Iraq war, ran to $2 trillion. Add in the financial crash that happened on his deregulated watch, and that number increases by orders of magnitude. None of those rioters were prosecuted, of course. On the contrary, some went to work in the Bush administration and are still working in Washington.

When white people smash and grab, the damage isn’t visible until they’ve cleared out. The tragic story of Lancaster, Ohio, where Trump’s Wall Street crony Stephen Feinberg’s Cerberus Capital sacked the town’s mainstay industry, Anchor Hocking Glass, is but one recent example. Post-Reagan Wall Street pillagings left a generation of working class Americans struggling to survive in a nation where wealth inequality is at feudal levels, and in ghost towns haunted by the wraiths of opioid addiction.

Yesterday’s one trillion dollar deficit loss projection from the Joint Committee on Taxation is at odds with the Trump administration and Republican claims that economic growth sparked by their tax cuts will cancel out lost revenue. And if they pass it anyway, they will be dispensing with the anti-deficit fig leaf that Congressional Republicans use to hide their long game of re-enriching fat cat donors and anti-tax ideologues like the Mercers and Koch Brothers who keep them in business.

Senate Republicans can only lose two of 52 votes and still pass the tax reform smash-and-grab with a simple majority. As of today, three Republican senators have expressed reservations about creating such deep deficits with tax cuts that go primarily to the richest. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona and James Lankford of Oklahoma say they want a "trigger" to automatically raise taxes if economic growth does not generate as much revenue as Republicans hope.

It’s not easy to stand up to looters, whether in South Central L.A. or on K Street. For today, Corker, Flake and Lankford are the thin, pin-striped line between the U.S. Treasury and those who would pillage it behind closed doors.

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