Waiting for howls of outrage

There is no question a lot of national legislation is too complex. One of my first business stories, over 40 years ago, was about ERISA — the Employees Retirement Income Security Act. Even its admirers said it was so complex that no one understood all of it.

It was designed to protect pensions from managers, a very good idea. Its big idea was to force the president and financial officer of a corporation to sign personally on income statements and be personally liable for their accuracy.

That was thought to be a very big stick indeed. Too big, really. What would it mean to be personally liable for the pension benefits of a declining giant like United States Steel?

ERISA was not a failure but only a modest success. The pension scandals of the ’60s were curtailed but not eliminated.

(In some sectors, newspapers for example, pension funds were usually topped up. Even overfunded. In the ’90s,with a hot stock market — and forgetting that economies reverse course from time to time — businesses petitioned for legislation that allowed them to pull excess savings out of plans. The company I worked for took back a million dollars. Time marches on. Newspapers declined. Last year, that fund [actually a new one, but for illustrative purposed it can be considered the same one] had to borrow nearly a million to keep within the 90% actuarial guideline to avoid a tax penalty.

(That is a very small fund. Some big ones were plundered to the tune of billions. This happened in both public and private funds. The State of Hawaii fund was well-provisioned until the Legislature began harvesting the excess in good years — sort of like taking a surplus kidney from a healthy person — until now it is tens of billions in the hole. Donating a kidney is a nice thing, so long as the remaining kidney remains healthy.)

My point is not so much about pensions (though perhaps I should write more about them) but about complex legislation and, in particular, how politically active citizens react to it.

About 8 years ago, several rightist to libertarian posters at this blog and another I used to infest were howling daily about the rush to pass Obamacare without having time to read through it. A point well taken. I am listening attentively for similar howls from the same people about the Trumpcare Tax Act (as it ought to be called because it sure takes care of Trump).

So far nada. Nil. Nothing. Not any.

Most Americans are said to deplore Trumpcare, which is a prudent assumption given the immorality of the people voting for it, but how have they arrived at their opinions? We don’t know what sort of pig is in that poke.

I don’t know how the tax changes will affect me and don’t much care personally. Americans pay very low taxes. My income taxes last year were something on the order of 13 or 14% of my income, and even adding Medicare, excise and property taxes I doubt the total got as high as 25%.

In exchange I got good roads, good health care etc. A bargain really.

Tricia and I will not be driven out of the middle class. But many millions have been since the inauguration of Reaganomics and it looks as if the Trumpcare Tax Act will accelerate that program. There is no doubt it is the deliberate intent of the rightwing.

(See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/21/opinion/republican-tax-bill-trump-corker.html?hpw&rref=opinion&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0)