Big Girls Don’t Cry

Our current political climate kind of makes me want to jam a pencil into my eyeball and slam my head down onto a solid oak desk. It is exhausting—a neverending barrage of meltdowns and irrationality and nonstop shrieking, a kind of playacting at genuine emergency. A great many Americans, the overwhelming majority of them progressives, have become accustomed to lurching from one news cycle, one policy proposal, one presidential press conference to the next with the hysteria dial turned up to eleven at all times; if you listen to even a small corner of the politically-active electorate—the liberal part, anyway—you’ll have likely heard the dire warnings about starving widows, children dying of smallpox, coastal cities doomed to inundation sometime in the next three weeks, literal Nazis not only running the government but actually sending people to the literal gas ovens right this very moment.

George Will calls this “the survival of the shrillest,” and he is right: Nancy Pelosi called the recent tax reform bill “the worst bill in the history of the United States Congress,” “Armageddon,” “the end of the world.” Larry Summers declared that the bill “will result in 10,000 extra deaths per year.” Elizabeth Warren called the bill a “heist” and “government for sale.” Singer Mike Jollett had an, er, rather strong opinion on the matter: “Today in America a bunch of rich white people are stealing money from ALL working people because they convinced a bunch of poor white people that brown people were to blame for the decline in the economy caused by the LAST TIME rich white people stole money.”

 All of this for a tax reform bill. One that, yes, has some real problems—among them the fact that it will add significantly to our debt over the next decade, a product of our idiot Congress’s resolute refusal to ever consider any kind of spending cuts whatsoever in any form at all—-but still, nonetheless: a tax reform bill. Armageddon! Literally the end of the world. A racist “heist.” The worst bill in the history of Congress—worse even than the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850! Okay.

Having a baby around the house has been an instructive experience: when we take something away from him that he isn’t supposed to have, or when we put up the baby gate to prevent him from going into another room, he often has a meltdown—not just a sniffling fit or a pout, but a kind of existential crisis where he melts to the floor, places his forehead on his hands, and sobs with reckless abandon. But he’s a baby—he does this because he sometimes feels like he has no other way to relate to circumstances he doesn’t like. What is the excuse of a bunch of fully grown adults doing the same thing?

The tax bill is far from perfect: it relies on growth to drive down the deficit, a dubious proposition at best; it eliminates itemized deductions, which will hurt certain earners in some states; the individual tax cuts themselves are temporary, whereas the corporate cuts are permanent; and overall it does mostly nothing to simplify the gargantuan stupidity of the modern American tax code. I would have preferred all of these things to have been different in the final bill. But see? I can criticize imperfect government policy without breaking down into hysterics over it. It is not hard to do: you just have to commit yourself to grappling with difficult circumstances better than a seven-month-old baby does. Is it really that hard?

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