For decades, permutations of the concept of Social Darwinism, the idea that survival of the fittest applies at a societal level, have had some traction within the Republican Party, and ironically amongst some Evangelical Christians for whom Charles Darwin is anathema.

The idea is that those who cannot keep up will be left behind and that this is a natural process that it is pointless to try and circumvent; attempts to do so are a waste of effort. Put bluntly, why shift resources from the strong, who are lifting up society, in order to support the weak, who are a drain on society?

This leads to a belief that the rich are rich because they deserve to be rich, and in becoming rich they are benefiting society as a whole, while the poor are poor because of various failings that make them in some way deserving of being poor, or at least unavoidably poor. If the poor deserve to be poor, then they do not deserve our help, and in fact, our help may be counter-productive in as much as it serves as a disincentive to struggle to lift yourself out of poverty.

A derivative of this philosophy is trickle down economics – the idea that by shifting resources to the rich, they will invest in ways that will stimulate the economy and benefit the rest of us. One way or another, it becomes possible to genuinely believe that measures that inflict suffering on millions are a necessary part of a “tough love” that will ultimately strengthen society.

How else do we explain the current Republican tax bill? It is designed to shift additional vast amounts of wealth to the rich, who have already become vastly richer over the past several decades, at the expense of the rest of society, and to pay for this shift of wealth upwards by removing vital subsidies that provide health insurance to millions of people, by increasing taxes over the next decade on those earning less than $75,000 a year, by removing tax breaks for the sick, and by driving up the deficit which will ultimately have to be paid for by all of us.

Most likely Republicans will demand the deficit be reduced, as they have repeatedly done in the past, by further attacks on programs that support the most vulnerable in society – the poor, the sick and the elderly.

How else to explain this incessant drive to shift wealth upwards to those who do not need it (the stock market, profits, corporate pay checks, and dividends have never been higher, and corporations have never sat on larger piles of cash) at the expense of those who desperately need it?

How else to explain the continuing support for the concept of trickle-down economics when it has been tried over and over again and clearly does not work? How else explain the repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no mechanism to protect the millions who will be deprived of health care? And how else explain the total lack of compassion and empathy in the Republican tax bill for the millions of lives that will be adversely affected, some of them with devastating consequences?

Somehow or another, it is acceptable to create millions of victims and to not feel their pain.

There is a moral bankruptcy and viciousness to the Republican tax proposal that cannot be explained simply in terms of evil people, or corporate lobbyists, or greed. There is an underlying philosophy at work that delegitimizes large sections of American society, that kills compassion and empathy, and in doing so enables otherwise decent people to inflict with equanimity, and for many of them with genuinely good intentions, unnecessary misery on potentially millions of their fellow citizens.

With the money the Republicans are proposing to give to the rich, we could fix the obvious problems of the Affordable Care Act, lift many out of poverty, rebuild infrastructure, and do a dozen other things that would have significantly greater economic impact than any effect of trickle-down economics. We desperately need this tax bill to be consigned to the dustbin and for Republicans to begin looking for real ways to help all Americans.

Nigel Calder
Newcastle