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Joseph Sabino Mistick

Joseph Sabino Mistick: Old Scrooge arrives early

| Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

Ebenezer Scrooge arrived early this year in the homes of the average American family. This is not the repentant Scrooge we see awakening from his three-act nightmare, eager to make amends. This is the money-grubbing Scrooge, who is unfazed by the suffering of others.

This is not the Scrooge who was scared straight at the vision of his old partner Jacob Marley, weighted down by chains for eternity, paying for a lifetime of greed. That Scrooge was too afraid to continue to fatten his fortune at others' expense.

No, the Scrooge who has showed up early this year is pushing through a Republican “tax reform” agenda in Washington, D.C., grabbing all he can for the wealthy at the expense of working families and the poor.

And if it works, his tree will be surrounded by gifts, his table will overflow with treats and he will be serenaded by joyful carolers. The festivities will be interrupted only by calls of gratitude from wealthy political donors.

And why should they not give thanks?

A New York Times analysis of a Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation report shows that one Republican-favored plan would result in a tiny 2019 tax cut of only 4 percent for those earning less than $10,000 while significantly cutting taxes for 80 percent of those who earn more than $1 million.

By 2027, even those middle-class Americans who get a meager break now would be paying more taxes while corporations would hang onto their tax cuts forever.

This is throwing a bone to the middle class while the wealthiest Americans dine on steak.

Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) would be in jeopardy and, according to the Congressional Budget Office, 13 million more Americans would be uninsured by 2027. And a likely $1.5 trillion increase in the federal deficit would put irresistible pressure on politicians to cut back Medicare benefits, according to AARP.

Meanwhile, just listen to how these swells talk about average Americans.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wants to eliminate the estate tax and give more money to the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans “as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it's on booze or women or movies.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, is tired of spending “trillions of dollars to help people who won't help themselves, won't lift a finger and expect the federal government to do everything.”

That's old Scrooge talking. Clearly, they believe the rich are more deserving of tax relief because they are socially and morally superior.

Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol” in England in 1843, a year after he toured America. He learned a lot while here and may have based “Marley in chains” on some shackled prisoners he saw while visiting Western Penitentiary in Pittsburgh.

But he learned more in Washington, stating that the politicians he observed rejected ideals for money. “This is not the republic of my imagination,” he wrote.

Later, in “American Notes,” Dickens described Washington as a place of “Despicable trickery at elections; under-handed tamperings with public officers; and cowardly attacks upon opponents, with scurrilous newspapers for shields, and hired pens for daggers.”

Old Scrooge would have loved this crowd.

Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer (

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